Specialty toys & gifts i ASTRA’S INSIghts
ASTRA’S CERTIFIED MASTER RETAILER CREDENTIAL New CMRs Discuss How the Credential Improved Their Business by KIMBERLY MOSLEY, president, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association IF YOU GOOGLE, “PROFESSIONAL certifications for business,” you’ll see a list of at least 90 credentials on Wikipedia. Ranging from the easily understood Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) to the emerging Master Certified Knowledge Management Professional (MKMP) to the “who knew?” Certified Protocol Officer (CPO), credentials are typically either industry specific or function specific. Whatever the certification may be, credentialing is a way for an industry to establish standards and help recognize professionals who hold themselves accountable to those standards. The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has additional goals for the Certified Master Retailer (CMR) credential it launched in 2015: to give ASTRA stores a competitive edge by differentiating themselves from big box stores, improving their marketing, increasing business effectiveness, providing employee incentives, and planning for succession, all while making this professional development available at an affordable price. Results from First ASTRA CMRs This year, four ASTRA members earned the CMR credential. All report that they have made changes in their business practices—
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strategic and tactical—as a result of the CMR program, including: • Improved communication and partnership with vendors and sales representatives • Stronger decision-making through better use of business analytics • An increased focus to ensure that every product earns its place on the store shelf • Better capacity to step back and see the store through the lens of the customer
Growth as an Entrepreneur Early childhood educator Jenn Eisenberg, CMR and owner of Smarty Pants in El Paso, Tex., gave the CMR program to herself as a birthday present.“Some topics were a review, while other areas I never explored before. I am implementing new merchandising, staffing, and marketing practices, and have started a local group for entrepreneurs to help me grow as a store owner,” says Eisenberg.
From Gut Reaction to Analysis “Operating on gut reactions can only take you so far,” says John Clower, CMR and co-owner of Giggle Monkey Toys in Dalonega, Ga. Clower chose to pursue ASTRA’s professional credential because he and his wife Tammy are retired educators who had no retailing experience when they bought their store almost two years ago. According to Clower, “The business and finance track was mind-boggling, but I realized we were not doing enough to analyze the effectiveness of our purchasing strategy. We now do more analytics and tracking of inventory by departments.”
Active Listening to Customers Erica Sipes, CMR and manager at Imagination Station in Roanoke, Va., is a key employee who was encouraged by her store’s owner to pursue the credential. One big takeaway centers on the role of the store in the community. “I naively thought people would come to us because we weren’t a big box store and because they needed toys,” says Sipes. “Now, I am more actively engaged in figuring out what makes our community tick. I listen to and observe our customers more carefully, and I’ve come to realize that they truly want an experience, lasting value in what they purchase, and a store that cares about their family’s well-being.” All of ASTRA’s first CMRs expect to pursue additional ASTRA credentials, either through more members of their store’s team earning the Certified Master Retailer credential or working to become a Certified Play Expert (CPE), which is the second credential now available from ASTRA. »
Another Look at Everything Tim Holliday, CMR and co-owner of Children’s World & Children’s World Uniform Supply in Sarasota, Fl., championed the development of ASTRA’s continuing education program as the first ASTRA member to earn the CMR. Now, his business partner—and also his wife—is enrolled in the program. “We run the business together, so having the second set of eyes provides another look at everything,” says Holliday. “We talk about every class, which allows us to do an overview of nearly everything involved in our store. We expect to use our credentials as a public relations tool, as a point of discussion with customers, on signage in our store, and in emails and other materials.”
Kimberly Mosley, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, is an experienced, award-winning, results-oriented association executive with a long track record of success in managing association operations, developing innovative programs, and growing revenue.
Many of us are traveling to Denver for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA’s) Marketplace & Academy trade show, and in...