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2 October 2015 • astratoy.org

Adventure Awaits! ASTRA’S 2016 Marketplace & Academy June 5-8, 2016 Denver Convention Center Denver, CO For more information: Call 312-222-0984 Visit www.astramarketplace.org astratoy.org • October 2015


4 October 2015 • astratoy.org

MESSAGE From the Chair

Scattershooting from the Chair

by Dean May


everal weeks ago I had a theme for this article totally in focus … then “stuff” happened. So, my planned theme will simply have to wait for the next issue so I can share the following … well, maybe unless more stuff happens.

1.If you haven’t been reading your e-Bulletins or breaking news flashes from around the industry, I am excited to introduce ASTRA’s new President, Kim Mosley. Kim is a seasoned veteran in association management with a focus on education and technology. She’s creative, skillful and articulate, and has the “right stuff” to lead our association to the next level. I’m confident when you meet her (think Vegas sales meetings, Toy Fair and Marketplace & Academy in Denver – save the dates: June 5-8, 2016), you’ll share the enthusiasm of the Search Committee and your board for Kim’s warm, engaging personality and her thoughtful, focused leadership style.

2.When your board crafted our current strategic plan beginning back in 2013, the fourth and final initiative of that plan, simply stated, was “Build Industry Viability Long Term.” We interpret that as what does/should/can ASTRA look like in the future. To address those questions and more we invited 11 Millennials to participate in a facilitated focus group the day prior to our September board meeting in Chicago. These folks were from all three membership constituencies and were purposely geographically, ethnically, experientially and gender diverse. After sitting in to observe, all I can say is WOW! Talk about thinking outside the box! The ideas, the experiences, the passion and enthusiasm they shared was invigorating and inspiring. They addressed issues of how and why they chose careers in the industry, how to make specialty toy industry careers appealing to a new generation, and where to find these new generation candidates. There were discussions on how to promote greater diversity in our industry, from product packaging to targeting underserved communities to partnering with other organizations. A topic of growing interest within ASTRA was considered – transitioning. How can ASTRA facilitate the transition (e.g. selling a store or a rep group) from current members to a new generation of owners? Finally, they shared their thoughts on what ASTRA can do to

support this new generation. Discussion centered around facilitating relationship building and collaboration, encouraging mentoring, building industry awareness, and shared data mining. Lots of ideas, lots of work, lots of promise, and you’ll be hearing lots more as your board begins tackling this strategic initiative. The focus group has asked to remain together to continue their collaboration, and I’m confident they have simply become the foundation to a far more expansive task force group needed to carry out the intricacies of this project. We’ll be looking forward to YOUR volunteer participation. One final note of thanks to all the focus group participants for sharing your time, talents and enthusiasm.

3. In closing, I’m putting the final touches on this article from Rochester, New York. At the kind invitation of the TIA Board of Directors, I am honored to represent ASTRA at the grand opening of the new Toy Halls of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play. This is the kick-off event for TIA’s year-long, 100th anniversary celebration. Happy Birthday, TIA! More importantly, it gives me a great opportunity to reflect on the long and storied history of this industry we have all chosen to play in. How great is it that we all can and do make a difference in the lives of children and their families through promoting healthy, quality toys and play! The Strong is the only collections-based museum in the world devoted solely to play and provides uniquely exciting ways to explore how play promotes creativity and learning. Along with the Toy Halls of Fame, The Strong is our Cooperstown, our Canton. Consider putting it on your bucket list of places to visit. You won’t be disappointed. That’s all for now. Cheers,

Dean May Toys Unique! Dallas, Texas

astratoy.org • October 2015



Greetings from your by Kimberly Mosley

New President


am truly honored and excited to accept the position of president of ASTRA, and my thanks to the search committee and to the board for their warm welcome into the ASTRA community. As I start this new and challenging journey, I look forward to working with dedicated staff, a dynamic board and a vibrant community of industry leaders to move the organization forward. Let me start by telling you why I took this job. Let me also give you some insight into what my priorities are and where I expect we will go as an organization.

Leverage Technology Next will be a focus on technology. There are new trends in technology that will revolutionize the specialty toy industry. We’ve seen improved technologies in data analytics, using mobile devices, and multichannel retailing. These are but a few of the tools that will help our members deliver on their commitment to the local community and customer service. We will focus on helping our members best leverage these technologies.

A Focus on Diversity Why ASTRA? As I learned more about ASTRA and its role in the specialty toy industry, I found a rich community of industry leaders dedicated to “providing children with healthy, quality play materials that have high play value.” I found a financially sound, nimble organization with a focus on innovation and growth. I found members with pride in being part of a local community with a focus on customer service excellence and providing those customers with expertise about toys and play. How could I resist being a part of this vibrant industry? A special thank you to Kathleen McHugh for her dedication and commitment to ASTRA. Under her leadership ASTRA has seen steady growth in membership, revenues and programming. She has left a great legacy and a solid foundation on which to build. As I step into this new position there are several areas I intend to focus on.

Strengthen Businesses First, to assist our members as they navigate this dynamic industry, we will continue to focus on expanding the professionalism of the industry by developing innovative educational and certification programs. An initiative like the Certified Master Retailer (CMR) credential provides an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of a rich framework of business knowledge. And work is progressing on the new Certified Play Expert (CPE) program, a certification that looks at child development, the benefits of play and how the two connect. These innovative initiatives will provide our members with the tools they need to be experts within their communities.

Lastly will be a focus on diversity. There are some dynamic shifts in the demographics of the U.S. population related to age, ethnicity, race and gender. It will be critical for the specialty toy industry to develop diverse leadership that truly represents those changing demographics. More diversity in our community will bring different backgrounds and points of view to the table. It will foster better decision-making and more innovation for our industry. We will focus on building that rich, diverse community. With the holiday shopping season ramping up, I know you are headed for the busiest days of the year. To kick off the call to the community, toy stores across the country will be celebrating Neighborhood Toy Store Day on November 14. ASTRA will continue to be focused on supporting you. We will continue to listen to you, to understand your needs so we can provide the leadership and resources you need. We will continue to bring members together so they can build their professional network and help each other succeed. I also look forward to working alongside the ASTRA staff. They bring an incredible wealth of talent, dedication and energy to the organization and the industry. I know that I speak on their behalf when I commit our collective dedication to advancing ASTRA goals and members. Thank you again for this opportunity and I look forward to working with this great community.

astratoy.org • October 2015


READY,forSET, PLAY... Children With Disabilities

Unwrapping Holiday Trends for Children with Special Needs by Ahren Hoffman, Manager of Industry Relations & Partnerships, National Lekotek Center, [email protected]


rom Pet Rocks to Barbie dolls, and Beanie Babies to Rainbow Loom, trends in the toy industry can come out of nowhere, and either disappear overnight or outlive their creators. Figuring out which trendy items will fly off the shelves is a tough and inexact science. Give yourself a head start when it comes to anticipating trends by providing the best toys with these three holiday season wishes of (most) children with special needs. They want toys that fit in with their routines, appeal to the categories they are interested in (preferences and personalities), and provide a predictable but new experience that is both familiar and exciting. Those same three ingredients: routine, categorization and predictability are also key elements of a successful specialty toy retailer. As a retailer, you want your customers to establish a routine of stopping by to see what’s new. Your store is organized by categories so customers get used to browsing in their favorite sections, and you want your customers’ business to be predictable, making your specialty toy store their go-to place for buying toys. While times have changed, being a kid is a fairly universal and timeless experience. Plus, how much do these

8 October 2015 • astratoy.org

toy trends actually transform? The toy industry is great for putting a fresh face on proven products and when you find ones that fit into a child’s toy preferences, it’s important to find ways to share that with customers, especially for the holidays. Invite families that have kids with special needs to see the latest new entries of their favorite toy classics like trains, dinos, dolls and more in your store. Here are some trends for children with special needs: • Little Versions of Larger Life: Kids with special needs appreciate familiarity. Don’t we all? Miniature versions of toys can be explored in the palms of their little hands. • Traditional Toys: We all know that classics like construction toys and blocks have always flown off the shelves, so look for toys that do more with less, because imaginations will fill in the rest. • Prehistoric Play: While actual dinosaurs might not roam the earth, you can bet they are alive and well in childhood daydreams. Whether it’s from a certain blockbuster film or a constant youthful fascination, these Jurassic giants are always a hit. • STEAM-Powered: The curiosity of kids has always driven them to create and discover. More and more STEAM-powered toys are appealing to these desires. The wonderful thing about trends is that they do not care who the kid is. Whether you are from one country or another, or have ADHD or autism, it doesn’t matter.

When it comes to play, children with disabilities want to be included the same as everyone. Instead of focusing on the child’s disability, focus instead on the unique abilities and personality of the child just as you would any other young customer. Help customers with their holiday shopping this season with these tips: • Think Toy Appropriate. Always remember to keep toys cognitively as well as chronologically appropriate. • Share the Trends. Parents want their kids to be included on the trends, those that other kids recognize and want to play with. • Think Outside the Box. Not all children will play with a toy in the same way, or even for its intended purpose. Finding unexpected solutions for playtime proves what we know to be true, the value that specialty toy retailers can bring that larger chains cannot. For more tips on how to focus on a child’s ability when choosing toys, check out the Make Way for Play: Brilliant Benefits of Toys guide, a partnership between the National Lekotek Center and ASTRA to illuminate the hidden benefits of toys and the skills that sprout to help kids grow and develop. Lekotek is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit www.ableplay.org for a complete listing of toys and find us on Facebook!


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MONEY Matters

When Boomers Retire,

Business Doesn’t Have To by Mary Sisson, editor


ne look around ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy is all it takes to realize that many of the entrepreneurs in the specialty toy industry are nearing retirement age. They’ve poured their bank accounts and hearts into building their businesses, and many are thinking about the next phase of life and how to get there without dismantling the company they’ve worked so hard to create. The toy business is not alone in this. According to an August article in The New York Times, the number of small businesses for sale in the U.S. is at a six-year high, and the median sale price of those that have sold is up 12 percent compared to last year. The huge baby boomer population accounts for much of this activity. That group saw opportunity for startups in the ’90s, when the economy was on a high note, and hung on through the recession in the last decade, until times became more favorable for selling. For many, their retirement depends on cashing out. Many have worked long and hard and just can’t do it anymore. Demographics also play a part in who is buying these businesses. A lot of buyers are people in their 40s or 50s who have been downsized or transferred and decide to be their own bosses, according to the Times article. Succession of family-owned businesses is another consideration for ASTRA members, since so many are mom-and-pop businesses. According to a Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey, 40 percent of small business owners said they were motivated to open their businesses to provide jobs for their children or other family members in the future, and another 34 percent say they plan to transition their business to a family member. Yet how many have set up a plan to do that? Tawnie Nelson, director of small business for Wells Fargo in Oregon and Southwest Washington, recommends four steps: • Define family members’ roles. It’s a good time to check in with family members to see if your ideas for handing over the business are the same as theirs. Take a fresh look at your company’s staffing structure, analyze performance, and see who’s most equipped to lead when you step down. • Explore financing options. Will your successor purchase the business or will it be gifted? Do you have debts? What are the tax implications? Meet with your lawyer, CPA and banker to help you design an agreement that’s fair for all. • Set up a smooth transition. Create an up-to-date, streamlined business plan. A recent survey revealed that only one in three small business owners have a formal, written plan.

10 October 2015 • astratoy.org

• Establish a timeframe. Make sure there’s ample training time built in. Make your exit strategy clear so everyone knows your role in the transition. ASTRA Toy Times Magazine interviewed members who are transitioning their businesses to new owners, and a couple of members who have been on the buying end of sales rep groups. If there’s a common thread, it’s to start making plans at least a year or two in advance to ensure a smooth transition.

Time for Transition at Timeless Toys The mild climate and mountainous beauty of western North Carolina beckoned Harry and Martha Burrows as they neared retirement, but one thing stood in the way: what to do with the toy store they opened and had lovingly run for 21 years in Chicago. While getting the finances in order is one of the first steps in transitioning a business, Timeless Toys’ accountant, Michael Friedland, suggested adding a line item: his son. “I was working with my father’s accounting firm,” said Scott Friedland, who now manages the store. “My father has been the accountant for Timeless Toys since the day they opened their doors. When the Burrowses mentioned to him that they were looking to retire, he thought it would be perfect for me to get my hands into.” Scott started an apprenticeship in February 2014. “After a few days at the store, we headed off to the International Toy Fair in New York,” Martha said. “What an introduction to the toy biz!

knowledgeable about the product and the product is so carefully selected. I am excited to be part of not only that history, but a part of the Lincoln Square community. “I am proud to be able to keep what they have started and take it to the next level. I think I can bring a lot of new ideas to the business, yet stick to the core values of what we have going on here.” There is a difference between starting a new business and taking on an existing one, Martha added. “Retail will always be a challenge but we started small and learned as we grew,” she said. “Our store has grown substantially over the years and retail has become far more sophisticated and complex. We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Scott and Mike before they take over the reins.”

Passing the Torch in a Five-Year Plan Turning 60 got Debbie Scholl thinking that she needs to formulate an exit strategy, well before she retires. She opened FUNdamentally Toys! in Houston

in 1995, and while she loves her store, she doesn’t want to stay in Houston that much longer. “I want to relocate to a more outdoor locale,” she said. Looking at her options, she saw liquidation, selling, or passing the torch as best she could. A year and a half into her five-year plan, she’s gradually passing that torch to Cliff Moss. Cliff began working for FUNdamentally Toys! a few years ago. “He is a self starter and hard worker; he doesn’t hold back,” she said. “He will take over when I retire and we are formulating a plan to get my equity out. We have tentatively agreed on a fair price; now we just have to figure out how to make that happen.” Coming from a background in IT and various sales positions, Cliff enjoys the business and understands its demands. “He is already assuming responsibilities and taking action,” Debbie said. “He researched and implemented a new POS system and handles most of the receiving and marking, plus manages the off-site storage. He loves to create

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12 October 2015 • astratoy.org

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product videos and is beginning to get the hang of merchandising.” Cliff joined the FUNdamentally Toys! team when he decided he didn’t want to spend any more time in a cubicle. “It was a fairly large pay cut but I was immediately happier,” he said. “After about a month of just clerking and selling, Debbie made me a buyer for a couple of departments. As I like to tell people, when I was given a budget and a filing cabinet full of toy catalogs to buy from, I knew I had found what I wanted to do.” Right now, Cliff is accruing what they refer to as “sweat equity” that will apply to the down payment price. “We don’t have all the details worked out yet, and it might be adjusted as we go, depending on the economy,” Debbie said. Cliff is taking the ASTRA Certified Master Retailer program and, as he learns on the job, he and Debbie work closely together. She still handles the financials and marketing. Various buyers are responsible for areas of the store, and they report to Debbie. “Each buyer understands how they need to flow their inventory and merchandise their areas,” she said. “Everyone has sales, margin and stock level targets, so that already makes the store function smoothly. I go over all areas with Cliff, so he knows how we are trending.” Technology issues are Cliff’s domain, and he handles all matters when she is not there. “Even when I am in the store, I don’t really manage the sales floor,” she said. “We have a really strong team in place and everyone seems to coordinate well together to get things accomplished. I am gradually moving things off my plate onto his. I still need to create a timetable for the transition.” Finding a buyer is not easy, let alone someone with cash and a business sense, Debbie said. “Running a toy store is a lot of hard work, as we all well know,” she explains. “We are taking steps to boost Cliff’s credit score and provide him partial equity in the business so that a loan, when the time comes, will hopefully be easier to obtain. Lenders are concerned with the ability of the business to maintain cash flow to pay off the debt. An established business led by someone in place for several years should look rather favorable.” What is Debbie’s advice for other business owners looking toward a change

such as retirement? “Every business is different,” she said. “It is much easier to step back when you are not doing everything yourself. I started letting staff be more responsible and giving them the authority to make decisions, so over time I removed myself from the daily operations. I could not have done that if the business was struggling, as so many are these days. I believe that is the difference between a job and a business. Create a business that functions well without you there 24/7.” And, what is Cliff’s advice? “Make sure you love it,” he says. “Ask yourself, what you would do if you won a $100 million lottery? Would you quit and travel the world? Or would you be excited about all the ways you could improve your store with that money, and then sit back and sell toys at your leisure? If you don’t love the job, you’re not going to be able to put the time required into it. “Take ownership NOW,” he continued. “Start thinking of it as your store; this will help give you the right attitude towards every aspect of the business. From dealing with vendors to customers, thinking of yourself as the owner will help you start building relationships with people differently. That way, when the transition takes place you will hit the ground running.”

Crafting a New Future at Harrisville Designs In Harrisville, New Hampshire, taking over the family business means keeping a town employed. That’s how it worked in 1971, when John Colony told his father he wanted to buy his mill and some of his machines. In turn, he asked his dad to buy stock in his new company. “Your stock is worthless,” his father said. “So are your machines,” John retorted. Harrisville was a typical New England mill town, and its heritage centered on textiles. But textiles were collapsing and over 50 mills had closed that year, said Nick Colony, John’s son. The Colonys’ mill, Cheshire Mills, closed in 1970. “New York City would call and say, ‘We need fabric,’ and the mills would open and create it,” he said. “One day the phone just didn’t ring and the mills closed.” John Colony saw a future in making high-end cone yarn for professional weavers and hobbyists to use in their own personal projects. His five sisters asked him to create a floor loom. There was no loom manufacturing in the U.S. at the time, so he traveled to Sweden and learned how to make them. A little later he started the Friendly Loom division to offer kids some quality weaving experiences, including the iconic potholder loom. “There’s so much junky material on the market,” Nick said. Harrisville Designs aimed to offer high-quality looms and materials so kids would enjoy the craft and want to continue. A generation later, Nick, 32, is learning how to run the business. After a stint in Cambridge, Massachusetts, selling technology and marketing research, reading and sending the appropriate research to clients, he decided to return to Harrisville. “They were thrilled,” he said of his parents, John and Patricia. His twin brother is in politics, and his older brother, Timothy, is peripherally involved in the business. Over the course of a year, Nick spent a few weeks with each of Harrisville’s employees learning their jobs. “It was a long year of a lot of hard work,” he said. After that year he backpacked through India, thinking about astratoy.org • October 2015


Left: Harrisville Mills, a National Historic Site, heads into the next generation. Right: John and Patricia Colony and son Chris are two generations of Harrisville Designs.

what he wanted to do with his life. But he figures he already knew before the trip started. He’s now in his sixth year at Harrisville Designs. “Mom is the creative director, and she’s eager to retire,” Nick said. “Dad is the CEO. He’s relinquishing more of his duties to me. But he carries a lot in his head. There are a lot of things he hasn’t taught me yet.” All those research papers he read in his previous job have given Nick an edge in using technology to promote and expand a company centered on old-fashioned fiber crafting in a nationally-preserved historic landmark. While he’s using Instagram, Facebook and other social media tools, a campaign across the country urges parents to unplug their kids and get them working with their hands and creating. “I really got into knitting,” Nick said. “It’s therapeutic, at least for me.” And he’s not alone. He’s heard many a parent report that a child with ADD or who can’t sit still connected with knitting or weaving and stayed focused. A combination of the old and the new shows in new kits, such as a crocheted iPad cover. “I have the luxury of having parents who are very active,” Nick said. “We’re developing a team here that can help me shoulder the load ... we’re heading in a good direction.”

For Seattle Reps, It’s Who You Know Jeff Saad and Melissa Dodge’s sales

14 October 2015 • astratoy.org

rep businesses were neighbors for years, just across the hall from each other at the Pacifc Market Center in Seattle. His showroom focused on toys, while hers featured baby gear. “We’ve always been good friends,” Jeff said. About 2-1/2 years ago, “she was looking to retire, so she approached me and asked if I wanted to take over her business.” This gave Jeff Saad & Associates the chance to diversify. “Gear is so much different from toy,” he said. “It gave us another avenue to sell into.” Melissa stayed for about a year, helping the Jeff Saad group learn all about baby gear. In the bargain, Jeff gained a rep in the Portland area and Melissa Dodge’s daughter, Mary, who manages the showroom and handles the website. “Our timing was just right by Melissa,” he said. “It fit our product mix.” And as a bonus, “We’ve now become gear experts and car seat technicians.” Meanwhile, down the hall at Pacific Market Center is a new showroom for Real Toys & Beyond, a second iteration of a rep group founded 20 years ago by Kiel Van Inwegen. Late last year, when Kiel wanted to move into something different, he approached Lisa Graves, who was a sales rep with a different group. “The opportunity was very unexpected on my end,” she said. “I was approached in October 2014 and needed to commit by mid-November in order to transition into this role and prepare for

December sales meetings and beyond! I tend to overthink things, so the short notice was probably a good thing.” She’d always wanted to open a store, so in the end she felt this was the closest opportunity. She had known Kiel since 2006, when she was a buyer for a local store and he was one of her sales reps. “Ultimately he felt I was qualified by reputation, experience and ambition to raise the level of my commitment to the industry, so he approached me,” Lisa said. “The learning curve of new vendors, new products, a new system and processes, along with a new team and new customers, etc., was steeper than I envisioned. Thankfully those customers I had worked with in the past gave me much grace and patience while working hard to prove to new customers and vendors that I am invested and committed to being a part of their journey.” Kiel served as a consultant to Lisa and her husband, John, throughout the process, being available, honest, and helpful beyond expectation, she said. He gave guidance while at the same time not impeding her vision. “It takes commitment, enthusiasm, time, effort and really partnering to make the transition work,” she said. “We each have our knowledge, gifts and talents that we bring and a team or partnership approach is best. If looking to transition into a bigger role, or transitioning out of one, the key word is transition. It’s a process!” ASTRA

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MONEY Matters

Raising the Minimum Wage: Good for Economy or Bad for Business? by Mary Sisson, editor


s campaign season heats up, the words “minimum wage” will be increasingly heard by candidates on all sides of the political spectrum. It’s a complex issue, with ensuring workers earn a decent living balanced against the costs of doing business, particularly for small businesses. What does a rise in the minimum wage mean for the toy industry? Even among people united in their passion to bring great playthings to children, there’s no consensus. Nationally, the debate pits supply side economists, who see a minimum wage increase as a burden placed on small businesses, against demand side economists who argue that wages set too low will result in higher levels of poverty. Independent toy stores, and many of the companies that supply them, are among the small businesses that employ half of America’s private sector work force. Wages and benefits comprise the largest portion of operating costs for small businesses and are one of the only controllable costs. The National Small Business Association and National Federation of Independent Business are against raising the minimum, saying it will force many employers to cut back on hours, put off hiring or lay off employees to keep costs down. On the other hand, a higher minimum wage means more expendable money in the economy, especially since low-wage workers spend nearly all their earnings, often at local businesses. Fewer workers would rely on public services such as rent assistance or food stamps, say proponents such as the Small Business Majority, Main

16 October 2015 • astratoy.org

Street Alliance and Businesses for a Fair Minimum Wage. Legislatures in 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, passed minimum wage increases in 2014, and four states approved them in ballot measures. Some cities have passed their own wage laws: Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, with more considering raising the wage. Seattle was the first big city to make the jump to $15 an hour, with a decade-long transition that began in April. Ann Walker, owner of Curious Kidstuff in Seattle, said, “The minimum wage

increase has made it more difficult for a brick-and-mortar store. Not only are you paying more wages but you’re also paying more and higher payroll taxes every month. This has made small business face yet another challenge. “I am fortunate to have longtime employees who came with experience. I can’t see myself hiring someone with no experience, putting in the time and money to train them and have them making the same amount as my employees that have been with me for eight and 10 years. “I do think it would be difficult to live on minimum wage. Mostly because the

astratoy.org • October 2015


astratoy.org • October 2015


MONEY Matters

Know Your Money

How to Tell Real Money from Fake


hose detective kits on toy store shelves aren’t the only nod to sleuthing in a toy store. A little staff training and a couple of tools at the front counter will help sales associates detect counterfeit bills during the busy season, when criminals are most likely to try to pass them. Turn to YouTube to find videos for staff training. Look up counterfeit money (how to detect it, not how to make it) and you’ll find a wealth of resources. Equip your front counter. Throw away the counterfeit detection pens; counterfeiters can treat paper to react to those pens just as genuine currency does. Instead, keep a magnifying glass and a black light – the ones made for Crazy Aaron’s Phantom Thinking Putty would work – within reach of the till. Then, practice detecting real money until it’s so second nature, a counterfeit will jump out at you.

Use your fingers The texture of the paper tells you a lot. Authentic U.S. money is printed on paper made from cotton and linen fibers, not sold commercially; normal paper is made from trees. Real money should feel crisp, despite its age. It’s usually thinner than counterfeit money. You’ll be able to feel ridges and textures. Run your fingernail over the portrait’s clothing. Counterfeiters can’t produce ridges like those. Slightly raised ink is used in many spots on the genuine bill. While the look of the bills has changed over the years, the distinctive feel is largely unchanged.

Use your eyes Making real currency involves top-secret printing methods with built-in security features, impossible to replicate with digital and offset printing. Look for blurry areas, especially in fine details

such as the borders. The outside border of real money should be clear and unbroken, with no bleeding ink. Check for colored fibers in the paper. Counterfeiters will try to replicate these by printing them on the paper. The portrait on a fake bill may appear dull, blurred and flat, compared to the sharpness and very fine detailing on a real one. On a real bill, the portrait tends to stand out from the background. With a magnifying glass, check for “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” repeated along the sides of the portrait. To the naked eye, this looks like a solid line. Serial numbers on either side of the bill should match each other, and their color should match the color of the Treasury Seal. If you get multiple suspicious bills, see if the serial numbers are the same. Counterfeiters sometimes neglect to change them. Many security features can be seen when you hold the bill up to the light. In all except the $1 and $2 bills, a security thread runs from top to bottom, embedded in the paper. The threads are in different places on each denomination to prevent smaller bills from being bleached and reprinted as higher denominations. The security threads should glow in a specific color under a black light: blue for the $5 bill, orange for $10, green for $20, yellow for $50 and pink for $100. Hold the money to the light to check for watermarks. It should show the image of the person whose portrait is on the bill. If Abe Lincoln’s watermark is on a $100 bill instead of Ben Franklin’s, it’s been bleached and reprinted. Tilt the bill to look at the color-shifting ink on $100, $50 and $20 bills from series 1996 and later, and $10 bills printed from 1999 on. Get out the magnifying glass to examine the micro-printing, including small words or numbers that are hardly visible to the naked eye. It will be crisp and clear on the genuine article, blurred or nonexistent on fakes.

What if you get a counterfeit? Inspect the bills the moment you’re suspicious. If one is passed to you, you must turn it in to your local police or the Secret Service. Remember the passer. If possible, delay that person to remember as much about his or her appearance as you can. Take note of any accomplices or companions. However, the person who gives you counterfeit money might be an innocent citizen who was passed a bad banknote without knowing it. It’s good policy to inspect all large denomination bills as a matter of course. Just seeing that you know what you’re doing may be a deterrent for money-printing criminals. ASTRA

20 October 2015 • astratoy.org

astratoy.org • October 2015


TOY Stories

Travel the World, Visit ASTRA Member Stores


hile the majority of ASTRA members are deeply rooted in North America, a few far-flung retailers add diversity to the membership mix. How does ASTRA serve these members? What unique challenges do they face? Why did they decide to join? We asked.

games, picture books and much, much more.” He faces challenges familiar to North American stores and has similar advantages. “Challenges are these uncertain economic times, the threat of Internet shopping and the competition of the majors,” he said. “The advantages are that people generally put their children first and spend on them Red Rocket Toys, Rose Bay, New South Wales, Australia over themselves. They prefer to touch and feel and have the whole experience of coming into a toy store and, being time Red Rocket Toys is part of an organization of independent toy poor, they love the service and the wrapping that our awesome stores in Australia, and when Ricky Roth took over the store five staff provides.” years ago, that group’s president was a member of ASTRA. When Knowing the demographic is key to his business. “The Ricky saw materials related to “Neighbourhood Toy Store Day and customers in different other bits and pieces,” he states, even different got on the website and parts of different cities, was impressed with what are going to be differhe saw. ent. Even as part of our However, the big own countries’ indething for him is keeping pendent stores there is up with trends. Red a great difference in Rocket Toys is in a what products work in wealthy part of Sydney, different locations, and and his customers hear different personalities about trends before require different techthey’re popular in niques. It is just about Australia. “Now I have recognizing this differheard about the prodence and catering to the ucts first; even if I can’t clientele – in product, always obtain it in Ausknowledge, service and tralia I am ahead of the Journey Toys’ sign is in English and Arabic. game, and occasionally customer experience.” this is a direct result The biggest chalof what I have read in lenge, however, is ASTRA,” he said. familiar to most stores: “Just getting more customers through the He still needs to work out a system to order stock from doors,” he said. North American suppliers, he said, possibly teaming with Ricky has not yet made the journey to Toy Fair or ASTRA another store, so he can bring things into the country first. Marketplace. “However, I am extremely eager to one year Red Rocket Toys has been around for 15 years. “We have soon,” he said. “They both look and sound amazing and I have a fantastic store, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff; we are always wanted to go to New York.” in a great area surrounded by good schools, parks and beaches,” Ricky said. “Whilst a niche store, we do not have the Journey Toys, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Teacher Alicia Suwaina, visiting her hometown of Denver, amount of space I would like (who does?), but we carry a great mix of traditional, modern, outdoors, educational and fun toys, was standing in Timbuk Toys when the idea popped into her

22 October 2015 • astratoy.org

head: to bring good toys to the United Arab Emirates, where she now lives. Thus began Journey Toys, whose name refers not only to her own journey, but the idea that education is a journey of learning through play. Sallie Kashiwa, owner of Timbuk Toys, agreed to be her mentor. “My first advice to any business – find a mentor!” Alicia said. Sallie walked her through her first Toy Fair in 2009, “because it was totally overwhelming and confusing, too,” she said. “She was wonderful and patient as she explained a lot about the ins and outs of Toy Fair. Now, I’m off and running from when the doors open to when they lock up.” It was at Toy Fair that she heard about ASTRA. “Initially, I thought ASTRA would only be useful to businesses within the USA,” Sallie explained. “However, I often heard it referenced in the industry so I decided to join. I am really glad I did because it has been an amazing resource and helps to keep me in the know about the toy industry in general and toy trends. There are so many, many resources available through ASTRA. I have often posted questions and people have been wonderful with helpful responses.” Abu Dhabi is an international community, and Alicia’s customers come from all over the world. She models her store after independently owned American toy stores. But hers is a bit different, as she displays holiday toys related to the area where she lives. “We celebrate holidays from the subcontinental region as well,” she said. “We also choose toys that are respectful of the area we live in.” Shipping time is one of her biggest challenges. “It takes forever to have things delivered,” she said. “From the date we order and then the logistics and planning takes about 3 to 4 months via sea freight. I often have to pay domestic shipping, then international shipping and an import tax so I can’t use keystone marking.” The port strike in California last year affected her business badly. The Christmas shipment arrived January 3. “It was like eating old Christmas candy,” she said. “We have put in a lot more effort this year to be heavily stocked for December. We added an extra container due soon, to give us a wealth of toys.” While fourth quarter is her busy time, when she adds pop up shops around the city, she’s found other sources of income year-round from distributing toys and bidding on government and school projects. With summer temperatures around 110 degrees, “Abu Dhabi becomes a ghost town so we really suffer in sales in the summer months,” she said. Look for Alicia at ASTRA in June. “This year, I’ve decided to go because it’s time and mainly, to be honest, because it’s in Denver – my hometown!”

said Fay Parker, store director. “Even though it’s small, there are plenty of retail stores selling toys, as well as multinational companies,” she said. “All of our merchandise has to be ocean freighted to the island, we pay import duties on it, and there’s a 17.5 percent value-added tax on sales!” ASTRA vendor specials are important to her business. Fay learned about ASTRA at her first Toy Fair in 2011, when she noticed the ASTRA lounge at Javits Center and wondered who these folks were who got their own lounge with coffee and coat racks. Assuming the “American” part of the ASTRA name didn’t apply to international stores, she didn’t investigate until she was home. Online, ASTRA “looked like something that I personally needed and would benefit from, as I was new to the toy retail business,” she said. Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop Inc. evolved from an earlier family business. Fay’s mother, Deanna Clarke (nee Dash), had worked in her family’s retail business for 49 years. Toys were one of the categories they sold. In 2011, they opened a 2,600-square-foot shop in the capital city of Bridgetown. That November, they opened a second store. They carry a cross section of children’s toys, books,

Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop, Bridgetown, Barbados While tourists expand Barbados beyond its year-round population of 280,000, Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop caters mainly to locals. This 144-square-mile island in the southeastern Caribbean is an expensive and competitive place to do business, astratoy.org • October 2015


Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop in Barbados makes use of a mall display window.

games – things you’d find in a typical specialty toy store, with an expansion of specialty brands since the store joined ASTRA. Licensed items aren’t always available; often suppliers don’t have permission to export to international customers, or

selection is limited. One difference is a mix of closeout items to offer customers some lower price points. A similarity: the competition. “Even though we’re in the Caribbean, we’re also competing against the U.S. big box retailers and Amazon, as persons who can afford to travel make their purchases in the U.S. and bring them back or have family living overseas send the items in,” Fay said. “Believe me, even here we get customers ‘showrooming’ and letting you know what they can get an item for on Amazon’s website!” Deanna Dash’s has been concentrating on offering consumable lines such as arts and crafts and making the most of each major calendar event to develop sales outside of fourth quarter. “We’re fortunate to enjoy support from many of our local teachers and schools,” Fay said. And they do in-store events. “This is a newer concept for Barbados, so we’re working at it and at least receiving some positive feedback.” Fay’s attended two ASTRA conventions and travels to Toy Fair each year. “Certainly, ASTRA has been important from the perspective that it recharges your ‘retail batteries’ and underscores that what we do as small independent toy retailers is worthwhile and matters and keeps money in our community,” she said. “ASTRA Marketplace offers opportunities for learning and improving in many dimensions, new friendships and, most importantly, a supportive community to develop in.” ASTRA

24 October 2015 • astratoy.org


Tips of the Trade

for 4Q T

he holidays can be a mixed blessing as they bring in the year’s biggest revenues – and the biggest stresses. How can we thrive, not just survive, fourth quarter? We asked ASTRA members from the manufacturing, repping and retailing segments of our membership to share their tricks and tips.

Manufacturers “Oh, how I wish there were some quick tricks to pull out of my hat in Q4!” wrote Ted McGuire, president of Thames & Kosmos. “But there are no shortcuts for hard work and slowly building trust with your retailers and suppliers.” He “crowdsourced” these guiding principles from Thames & Kosmos staff. 1. Have a strong mission that everyone can rally around. Make product with a higher purpose that you believe in. 2. Be sincere and treat your customers with the utmost integrity; always be honest and never promise more than you can deliver. At the same time, be flexible. Endeavor to say “Yes!” to customer requests as much as possible and make it work. Do what it takes to meet the customer’s needs. Without them, we are nothing. 3. Empathy is probably the most important characteristic you can have. It allows you to see things from a variety of perspectives and adapt to them. Whether it’s understanding how users feel about product experiences during product development, or understanding how buyers feel about their margin requirements, putting yourself in other people’s shoes helps you make good decisions that are mutually beneficial. 4. Build a strong team that values all of these characteristics and accepts nothing less. Endeavor to operate at an exceptional level, not just at an average level. 5. Pay attention to the details. 6. Thank your customers. 7. Ship on time and in full! And Fred Gross, national sales manager of Sentosphere USA, says there are no tricks, only suggestions for a successful fourth quarter. 1. Make sure you have an ample supply of your best sellers on hand. 2. Communicate with your reps, so they can let retailers know your specials, price changes, inventory shortages, etc.

26 October 2015 • astratoy.org

3. Offer a great free freight program without losing your shirt. Free freight is the number one request from Sentosphere customers. 4. The most important one: Have all orders shipped quickly, in one or two days. During fourth quarter, retailers cannot and will not wait for delayed shipments.

Sales Representatives Lillian Davis offers these tips from her experience in Kansas and Missouri with Diverse Marketing. 1. In December, spend time in the store just gift wrapping or stocking shelves. 2. Review order history and make sure the vendors that weren’t at ASTRA didn’t fall through the cracks. 3. Make sure your stores have all the best sellers with each line. Especially review new products that weren’t available until fourth quarter. Make sure they didn’t get overlooked.

4. Timely responses on retailer issues and questions are even more important in fourth quarter because retailers are extra busy.

Retailers Retailers’ tips and tricks tend to fall into four areas: taking care of your customers, taking care of your staff, taking care of your store, and taking care of yourself. Your Customers 1. “I send a personal note to my top 20 customer list, asking if they would like a personal appointment, a wish list emailed to grandparents or special shipping (for their holiday vacations). It’s handwritten, it’s signed by me and it’s all about how much I love having them as a customer. It does two things: It makes them feel special and it gets them going on their list, and it ensures that they won’t randomly wander in on a busy, busy day when I’m short staffed and can’t pay the proper amount of attention to them.” – Cynthia Compton, 4 Kids Books & Toys, Zionsville, Indiana 2. “We do a wine and cheese special event for our most loyal customers. They need the invitation to get in the store and they hire babysitters well in advance. It’s a great night!” – Linda Lyden, Castle Toys & Games, Beaver, Pennsylvania Your Staff 1. “We have Soup Saturdays. Three people sign up for a Saturday of their choice between Thanksgiving and Christmas and bring different soups. It encourages our staff to not have to leave for breaks and then try to find parking again.” – Emily Thomas, The Toy Store, Lawrence, Kansas 2. “We always have food and drinks available. Thanksgiving weekend they get a little ‘goodie bag’ with Advil, chapstick, breath mints, candy, and more goodies. – Ann Kienzle, *play, Chicago, Illinois 3. “One year, I scheduled a massage expert to spend the day and do rotating 30-minute chair massages on the busiest Saturday. Most employees loved it! A few opted for only hands or feet.” – Margaret Warner, The Toy Store, Lawrence, Kansas

4. “We give spa certificates to the staff.” – Zoe Rosa, Brains ‘N’ Motion, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico 5. “I do little treats with their paychecks every week during the Nov. 15-Dec. 30 stretch. Gift cards for coffee/pizza/ car washes, local restaurant gift cards, movie gift cards, socks, stuff they can use or regift. I buy lunch – pizza or subs on Fridays and Saturdays.” – Cynthia Compton 6. “I have a staff Christmas party the first Sunday in December. We have food and exchange secret Santa gifts. Everyone has carte blanche to ‘spend’ on merchandise up to $25 for their Secret Santa and they don’t have to pay for it. It’s a great way to get everyone ready and excited for the season, and makes them all more connected to the merchandise. Many times staffers will make a craft for their present.” – Tina Clark, Kidding Around, New York, New York Your Store 1. “The most important part of being successful through our busy season is planning on success. I stock for growth. When I reorder I order around 10 percent more than what sold the prior year. With that growth and the new items for the year, I’m well stocked.” – Allen DiFrischia, Playthings Etc., Butler, Pennsylvania 2. “I cannot stress enough the value of college kids returning as temp staff during December. Once they get done with exams, they show up all happy and energized and silly – it’s just the boost we need for the last 10 days or so. My rule is ‘if you’ve worked for us in the last 4 years, you can come back and wrap at Christmas.’ They all show up, bless their hearts. They can wrap and assemble and carry stuff out to cars and make deliveries.” – Cynthia Compton 3. “I order a bit more bags and gift wrap supplies than I think we’ll need just to be sure. I also do supply lists on Wednesday so we won’t ever run out of things for the weekend. Try to reorder hot sellers before they sell down and call vendors to check on inventory levels.” – Thea Brown, World of Mirth, Richmond, Virginia astratoy.org • October 2015


Yourself 1. “For me, it is vitamins, naps and a big break. When I work 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., I take a 3-hour break midday, when my store is most heavily staffed, and take a nap, watch a movie or read a book.” – Phil Wrzesinski, Toy House and Baby Too, Jackson, Michigan 2. “I try to schedule two massages in December (on a Monday or Tuesday night) to regroup from the weekend and force some ‘downtime’ for myself.” – Ann Kienzle 3. “I take a vacation in October and the few days after Christmas. Wrap presents for my kids. Then I try to have that special customer every day and really take the time during all the craziness to help them get exactly what they want for everyone on their list, without bring rushed.” – Annika Bixby, Brilliant Sky, Wilmington, North Carolina 4. “I schedule a weekly massage and a weekly mani/pedi for me. And a date night once a week. Do. Not. Skip. The. Date. Night.” – Cynthia Compton 5. “I coach my son’s basketball team. The season runs November through February. It takes my mind off the store, and puts it on more important things like family, friends and fun. And the coaching forces me to leave the store and let the employees do their thing.” – Marc Caniguila,Toy Zoo, Santa Monica, California And finally, this advice from Betty Skoke Burns, owner of Angellina’s Toy Boutique in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory: Remember to enjoy and live the moment. Often when we are managing, problem solving and in the thick of the hustle and bustle of the season we may forget that we’re making Christmas magic! Take time to pinch yourself; this is Christmas! Sometimes I need to remind myself that I’ve worked all year for these amazing Christmas moments. Take the time to look with wonder and awe on all that you created, smile with joy when you wrap the presents, be thankful and feel blessed for all that you have. Remember your own childhood and remember the meaning of Christmas. When you own a toy store, it can be very easy to create the magic for everyone else and forget to let the magic take place in your own heart, too. How blessed are we! ASTRA

28 October 2015 • astratoy.org

CONNECT CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS TO THE TOYS ON YOUR SHELVES According to the US Census, 1 in 20 school-aged children or 2.8 million kids are reported as having a disability. Children with disabilities are just like any other kids when it comes to learning through play. They just need a little help connecting.


Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs is an electronic handbook for anyone who makes or sells toys. It clearly explains the characteristics of common disabilities and types of toys that work well for children who have those disabilities. Helps store staff understand common disabilities along with tips for communicating with parents who have children with special needs. Builds your knowledge of toy features and gives you guidance when making selections on what play products to carry in your store.

The National Lekotek Center works to serve children with special needs through three main arteries: direct family services, training and the toy industry.




Supports you in working effectively with your customers and guiding them in their toy buying decisions.

2995 for members


12900 for


Visit www.astratoy.org or call 312-222-0984 astratoy.org • October 2015



Band Together

to Promote Local Message W

hile national advertising campaigns drive people to big boxes for holiday shopping, independent stores can band together with the message that the local option makes a merrier community. Some can be organized fairly quickly. The American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) offers ideas that its affiliates have brought to life in their cities and towns.

Shopping campaign, urging shoppers to shift a percentage of their holiday spending to local independents.

Plaid Friday Some groups rebrand the day after Thanksgiving as Plaid Friday, offering special events and promotions through an indie loyalty card program or free parking to shoppers.

Hold a “Pro-Test” Think Local Umpqua in Oregon took their holiday campaign to the streets on Black Friday with staff and volunteers holding signs at a prominent intersection. In just a few hours, they generated great news coverage and hundreds of supportive honks from passing drivers. They tied their effort to AMIBA’s collaborative Shift Your

Is Excited to announce a new division which will promote family-friendly tech and gear 



Publicity That Counts! 

“…the New York City toy fair is a glimpse into the future of the toys your kids will be begging for any minute now, and we're getting a sneak preview of the best stuff at this year's fair from toy expert, Elizabeth Werner. Elizabeth, thank you for being here. Thank you for having me. So, let's just start off, you got great stuff for the little ones, right? Yeah... …Now we normally do puppet shows but you got something that's taking puppet shows to a new level. That’s right. I know that Whoopi loves puppet shows. Now, this is real cool. It’s the magic forest theatre. This theatre is actually a puppet show that we do in the dark. So now if you notice, go ahead. And we’re going to shine our flashlight. Remember when you were little and you would use your hands on the wall. Now we don't have to use your hands. We have lots of characters, even dinosaurs. This is the only time you're going to get an elephant in a building. Haha. This is how we should do tomorrow's show! This is a lot of fun…”

Bingo! Fayetteville, Arkansas, used Indie Bingo to draw customers to member businesses in December. Each participating business donated a prize or gift certificate. The Louisville Independent Business Alliance hosts an annual Shift Your Shopping contest in which residents can win a $1,000 shopping spree and other prizes by collecting receipts from any five member businesses. As a Small Business Saturday promotion, the Billings, Montana, Chamber of Commerce created a Monopoly-esque game board populated by member businesses. Shoppers were only required to visit 10 of those businesses to enter a drawing for gift cards from the shops on the Monopoly board.

Windows Version 4Q Portland Buy Local in Maine arranged with owners of commercial buildings with vacant storefronts to use their windows to send a big “buy local” message. The Austin (Texas) Independent Business Alliance coordinates an annual window decorating contest for their several neighborhood commercial districts, which encourages locals to vote online for their favorite display in each. Voters enter a drawing for stockings full of gift certificates and other items from AIBA members. The winning businesses in each district compete head-to-head for the “King of Window Displays” honor.

Chalk the Walks The Louisville IBA distributed sidewalk chalk to business members to chalk the walks in front of their stores with buy local/ shop small messages on Small Business Saturday. Participants sent photos to the IBA, which posted them on their social media.

Ask us how our 21 years of experience can be game-changing for your business. Proud Member of

Call LIsa Orman, 608-767-1102 or email [email protected]

30 October 2015 • astratoy.org

Tag It Several independent business alliances have provided tags or stickers for their members that retailers could offer with gift purchases, letting recipients know the gift giver had chosen a local independent business. Durango, Colorado, even has gift wrap designed by local artists and printed by the local newspaper, distributed to member businesses or for sale to the public. ASTRA


Work Intense on Search Committee


mails flew across the country as the search for ASTRA’s new president ensued. And finally, so did the selection committee as they met in Chicago in August to interview the top three candidates. But first, ASTRA tapped an executive search firm that’s highly regarded in the association management field. The firm put the word out through multiple publications and sites where association management types hang out. This drew more than 25 applicants from around the country. Through phone and in-person interviews, the search firm vetted the applicants down to three. Then came the committee, who met over two days to formulate the

tough, probing questions they’d ask each candidate and interview all three. “We had lots of emails and discussion,” said Dean May, who chaired the committee. “We were trying to identify the profile of the job. We know Kathleen (McHugh)’s done a fabulous job, but one reason she stated for resigning is to take ASTRA to the next level.” The search committee of six included past ASTRA chairs Bill Bordegon of Orb Factory, Steven Aarons of Barstons Child’s Play in Washington, D.C., Linda Hays of hopscotch toys in Oregon, and Michael Levins of Innovative Kids; Ann Kienzle, chair-elect, of *play in Chicago; and Dean May, current board chair, of

Toys Unique! in Texas. “Collectively, all those people probably represent 30-plus years of experience on the board,” said May. “I trusted their passion for ASTRA, and I trusted their judgment.” That judgment resulted in a unanimous choice for the new ASTRA president. But the job wasn’t over. Next came reference checks, a criminal background check, and contract negotiations. Only once the ink was dry on the contract could the committee break the news to ASTRA’s membership and then direct Susan Oliver of Tropomedia, a public relations firm, to tell the world that ASTRA’s next president is Kimberly Mosley. ASTRA

32 October 2015 • astratoy.org

astratoy.org • October 2015



Meet the

New Board Members A

STRA’s four new board members jumped in at Marketplace & Academy in Charlotte, ready to help steer the association through this transitionary time. Meet your representatives.

Christine Blumberg Roberts Blumberg Corporation, Guilford, Connecticut Since college, Christine wanted to work in children’s products. She followed her best college friend to California, determined to work at the Walt Disney Company. Landing a job as a marketing assistant at Walt Disney Records, she knew she was in the right place, working on packaging, pricing and promotions for characters that are household names. It was a dream come true. Five years later, she became director of marketing for Jim Henson Pro Productions in New York City. But within three years, Disney called her back for a sales position. She managed a $6 million dollar territory for Disney Rem ccords while living in her hometown of Boston. When Disney decided to distribute through Universal Records, she moved to Ravensburger, learning a new challenge: specialty sales. It was here she got her first exposure w to the world of sales reps and independent toy stores. pend In 2000, Christine’s husband, Alan Blumberg, Bl b and brother, Jeff Roberts, started their own rep group. They’ve been selling to independent toy and gift accounts in New England for more than 15 years. “Our relationships with both our vendors and accounts are invaluable to us,” she said. “We have made lifelong friends and feel that we bring a tremendous service to our accounts.” Looking toward her term on the ASTRA board, she would like to focus on ways to create traffic in independent toy stores, and to heighten the awareness of the role of the sales rep.

Christine Osborne Wonder Works, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina Christine’s background as an occupational therapist, hospital marketing director, and head injury-program development director have served her well in her 25 years as owner of Wonder Works. In 1990, seeing the need for quality hands-on toys

34 October 2015 • astratoy.org

for all ages in her community, y, she developed a business model embracing science and naturee with a former co-worker, Dr. Morrisey. It quickly grew to a larger store and then a second store was added. When Dr. Morrisey died in 2007, Christine harnessed a new strength to make Wonderr Works sustainable in a new way. Localism was introduced ed as a business model, where Christine hristine integrated local children’s charities and products created by children into her stores. Now with four stores, an online store, and a central distribution center, Wonder Works has become a cornerstone in the Charleston community. Passion, wonder and magic occur daily in Wonder Works stores with Christine leading her team of Magic Makers. Sustainability of the toy industry is key to Christine’s vision for the future of all specialty toy stores. Her events and promotions incorporate local specialty, national specialty and mass vendors in a spirit of collaboration to grow the industry. “Perseverance, proactivity and positivity are key to help maintain a forward path for the future of ASTRA,” she said.

Gwen Ottenberg Imagine That Toys Inc., Wichita, Kansas Gwen earned a degree in communications with business and English minors from the University of Pittsburgh. But even during a serious college career, she said that she wanted to play for a living. “My mom always told me that I couldn’t play for a living and that eventually I would get a real job, and so far I have proven to be stubborn,” she said. She and her husband, Al, are heading into their ninth Christmas season at Imagine That Toys. Gwen loves to be on the sales floor with her staff and customers. “I love to play and think that most of the time I an hhave created the best job to fit me and my personality,” she m said. “My motto is to put the right toy in the child’s hands at the right time.”

12/25. 8.00 AM. Marie, 18 months, and her mom are welcoming a new family member.

Love your girl, she will blossom ! us.corolle.com

astratoy.org • October 2015


She is a familiar face to many after heading up Share the Fair at Toy Fair and the Best Toys For Kids Committee. “I have been given so much from ASTRA that I am happy to serve on the board and give back,” she said. She hopes to be a fresh perspective in the industry. “I am not afraid to speak my mind and look outsidee of the box for an answer,” she said. “I think we are in a crucial time and need to come out with a united voice ce on the value of play. I am a competitive person on and love to have team spirit. We are all valu-able members of the industry, and I hope to speak up for the retailers.”

Michelle Sahr Off the Wagon, Kent, Ohio Michelle grew up with a retailer dad, whose shops included a toy store. She loved working in the stores as a child and went on to study business, ss, earning at bachelor’s degree in marketing, beforee returning home to work in the family business full ll time. Today, she is president and owner of the family business which

includes two shops, one of them a toy store. “A lifetime in retail and the toy business has given me a lot of experience,” she said. “I’ve been a toy retailer since 1991. I heard about ASTRA early on and joined 18 years ago. I know and believe that our industry is stronger because we work together, and AS ASTRA has made that possible.” As mother of three children, including one with special needs, she has a mom’s perspective on play and learning, in addition to all she’s le learned in retailing. Heavily involved in her l local Main Street program, she has served as board president and treasurer, and she’s been on the board of a local private school for six years. “I am often asked to be in positions o leadership, as it tends to be a natural of in inclination of mine,” she said. She enjoys plan planning into the future and working together to ddetermine the steps needed to accomplish goals. Sh She finds that serving on boards can be, at times, energizing and even fun. ASTRA

36 October 2015 • astratoy.org


Peter Reynolds Joins


ABA USA has brought specialty toy industry veteran Peter Reynolds on board as National Sales Manager. Reynolds comes most recently from Juratoys in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. His responsibilities include directing and managing HABA’s independent sales team, forming and managing the company’s online strategy, and developing new partnerships with specialty toy retailers. Reynolds brings over 35 years of experience to the role, including previous positions as president of the Brio Corporation, general manager of HAPE International, and roles with Little, Little, Toy Co. and Early Learning Centre. Says HABA USA President Lea Culliton, “Peter Reynolds has been invested in the ‘Power of Play’ message for many years, and so adding his knowledge and experience to the HABA USA team creates a synergy of mission. HABA USA’s focus and commitment to specialty and our belief in serving the customer with great product, good play information and hands-on demonstration is also a challenge Peter’s experience can help us with.” She will continue to lead the company and work on expansion of HABA into other specialty markets such as game and hobby stores and baby stores.


astratoy.org • October 2015


News presents

This holiday season, stock your shelves with AMEP Art supplies!

For more information contact: Danelle Maestas 1-800-289-9299 x240 [email protected]

We are a manufacturer not a jobber!

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Leadership Changes T

oysmith has seen major changes in the last few months, as founder Bill Smith stepped down as president and CEO after more than 30 years. He remains on the board of directors and will advise the new executive leadership team. Nancy Smith, vice president of product development, and Jeff Bell, CFO, also are leaving their roles at Toysmith, located in Sumner, Washington. Bob Ludeman succeeds Smith as CEO. The lifelong Washingtonian started his career in marketing and product development at Raleigh Bicycles and, most recently, was executive vice president of global sales at Chef’n. Michael O’Brien has joined Toysmith as CFO, coming from Distant Lands Coffee in Renton, Washington, where he was CFO, a role he also held at Jones Soda and Pyramid Breweries. Bill and Nancy Smith founded Toysmith in 1981. From shipping products from their garage, the company has grown to be a large distributor of more than 1,600 products to more than 6,000 accounts.



-!"-0(#&(()"*/4-"%+0.&*$ +),"/&/&1",-& &*$40(&/3,-+!0 / ++!."-1& "4.3/+2+-'2&/%



222!"(*+."-1& " +)4&*#+!"(*+."-1& " +)

Owners, Bill and Nancy Smith

38 October 2015 • astratoy.org

Welcome (back) to HABA! HABA has the BEST quality at the right price points and you won`t see our brands on the mass market shelves this holiday season! Set your store apart with the best European brands, all in one easy order.

rs aile with t e 60 RA R AST FA and er. d F ive 0 or rece ny $ 50 a

Walk Along Tool Cart item 300734 $55.00

Zippity Zoo Clique Item 300713 $7.50 Peekaboo Zoo Item 300717 $7.50

Ph: 800-468-6873 www.HABAusa.com [email protected]

Little Friends Bendy Dolls $3.75

astratoy.org • October 2015





by Sue Warfield, Director of Member Relations, ASTRA


t’s a paradox. ASTRA retailers, rep groups and many manufacturers are independently owned businesses. Many started precisely for the freedom to run their own show. At the same time, ASTRA’s main purpose is to strengthen the specialty toy business by bringing our members together to help each other succeed. To fulfill that goal, it often means asking our members to follow a lead or “buy in” to programs and member offerings. Strength in numbers, as the saying goes. Band together to conquer. It can be a conflicting request. Just as a retailer relies on consumers to support them, ASTRA relies on our members to support the efforts of each of our member categories and work together for success. Therein lies our challenge. As the holiday selling season approaches, it is prime time to make use of the programs and offerings of ASTRA. By promoting ASTRA programs and offerings, as well as each of our members within our own communities, we truly are building for our future growth in a retail environment that seems to focus on the giants and not on the true service aspect that independents can provide. Time and service are king. Great products, items that can’t be found elsewhere, a positive “customer experience” in which staff is knowledgeable and enthusiastic – these are what consumers say they want, in nearly every survey that is published. For most shoppers, price becomes the focus only if these needs and wants are not met. It’s our time to shine, and

40 October 2015 • astratoy.org

here are tools and programs your ASTRA membership offers to you.

1. Best Toys for Kids. Hopefully, you have ordered your flyers. If not, you can still take advantage of this program by highlighting these products – chosen by your peers. This year, the manufacturers of the selected products were contacted and asked to provide specials to make it as easy as possible to order and get these toys on the shelf. Support their efforts. Check out the list of “Seven Easy Ways to Rev up Sales with ASTRA’s Best Toys for Kids List,” available on the ASTRA website under the “For Members” tab, Events and Programs.

2. Neighborhood Toy Store Day. Do it up! Make a splash! Show your community that shopping locally is the only way to go. Need ideas? There is a wealth

of information on our website, including templates for press releases, marketing materials and offerings from our manufacturers. Check out the various specials, play day and event offerings that many of our manufacturers have available to you. Local coverage can be a huge boost to your store, so use the tools!

3. Exclusives. The preschool line of exclusives has been shipping since mid-July. If there is one thing that can really set ASTRA Members apart, it is offering products that can only be found at ASTRA member stores. There was a day when specialty stores could find an array of products not found elsewhere. Not so anymore! Snapo, Plan Toys, and Outset Media have provided a wonderful offering that only ASTRA Retail Members can purchase. Support these manufacturers for making this commitment to ASTRA.

On our website go to the “For Members” tab, check out the exclusives and watch the videos that show kids playing with these products. Kids love them. Put some demos out in your store and you will see first-hand that they are KAKL (that’s “Kid Approved, Kid Loved”). Highlight the exclusives on an endcap or

a display area. Make a statement! With these products, the customers will not be able to pull out their smart phones and find them online or elsewhere for a lowball price. And, don’t forget to adhere the “Exclusive” stickers that accompany the shipment of the exclusives to the products!

4. Year-Round Offerings Booklet. If you didn’t receive a hard copy of this booklet, you can find it on our website. Go to the “For Members” tab under “Network/Connect.” In this booklet, you will not only find specials that are offered year-round to ASTRA members, you will also find play day offerings, event planning help, staff training help and advertising help. Use these offerings to get your staff, store and printed pieces ready for the busy selling season!

5. Make Way for Play Booklet.

5 1 0 2 y a Holid Buy Now!

Hopefully you ordered your 50 free copies – and maybe even more. If not, you can access this booklet on our website by clicking on the “Academy” tab, then Resources. It is listed under our publications. If you haven’t received your ordered copies yet, they will be arriving soon. Use these to train your staff, hand out to customers, take with you to off-site selling opportunities – be creative! This information will build your store’s reputation within your community and make you the “place in the know” for finding the perfect toys for the kids on anyone’s list.


Neighborhood Toy Store Day


Play Day Kit...


Contact us today! 866.693.2648 | RIƓFH#FKRRVHIULHQGVKLSFRP


Tools are only good if they are used. When I was a rep, trying to put a rack together without tools just didn’t work. Tools specifically designed for the rack made the task even easier, more successful and less stressful. ASTRA has tools specifically for you. Use them and make the 4th quarter your best ever! ASTRA

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astratoy.org • October 2015


New Members If any of the information below is incorrect, ASTRA truly apologizes. Please contact us immediately at [email protected].

MANUFACTURERS Brackett Creative LLC Braxton Zink 50 Marshal St., Unit A Brookline, MA 02446 (617) 650-1287 www.brackettcreative.com [email protected] CreoPop Daniel Kelley 23950 Commerce Park Rd. Beachwood, OH 44122 (216) 595-9828 ext. 117 www.creopop.com [email protected] EQtainment LLC Destiny Deas 8112 Navidad Dr. Austin, TX 78735 (318) 286-1138 www.eqtainment.com [email protected] Fremont Die Consumer Products, Inc. Brian Weinberg 1709A Endeavor Dr. Williamsburg, VA 23185 (847) 400-0208 www.fremontdie.com [email protected] Funology Innovations LLC Jessica Walden 962 Shine Ave. Myrtle Beach, SC 29577 (844) 386-6564 www.funologyzone.com [email protected]

Getta1Games Tim Walsh 9072 Misty Creek Dr. Sarasota, FL 34241 (941) 926-8004 www.getta1games.com [email protected] Lammily Eleni Gagnon 4 Goldmine Rd., Ste. 5 Flanders, NJ 07836 (844) 526-6459 www.lammily.com [email protected] Lassig Ms. Ashley Ware Im Riemen 32 Babenhausen, 64832 Germany +49(0)607374489 www.laessig-fashion.de [email protected] Snaptoys, LLC Ricardo Venegas 6555 Powerline Rd., Ste 113 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309 (954) 938-5038 ext. 101 [email protected] Spray ‘Em Away Faye Tait 3370 N Hayden Rd., #123 PMB-792 Scottsdale, AZ 85257 www.sprayemaway.com [email protected]

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The Chillafish Company Chantal Van Bauwel Straatsburgaok Noordkaai 21 b 19 2030 Antwerp, Belgium 3232571859 www.chillafish.com chantal@chillafish.com Tucker Toys Mark Nathan 200 W Somerdale Rd. Voorhees, NJ 08043 (856) 216-1333 www.tuckertoys.com [email protected] Whiffers Sniffers a Division of Bearington Collection Jamie Stray 3350 Town Point Dr., Ste. 200 Kennesaw, GA 30144 (678) 520-5903 www.whiffersniffers.com [email protected]

SALES REPRESENTATIVES Dave Knox Knox & Associates 25616 Sunnymore Dr. Plainfield, IL 60585 (815) 254-1749 www.babygearguys.com [email protected] Wren Anderson Smile Spotters Incorporated 1510 Diamond Ct. Franklin, TN 37064 (615) 426-1600 www.smilespotters.com [email protected]

RETAILERS Back In Time Toys Jessica LaRue 113 E Main St., PO Box 434 Cole Camp, MO 65325 (660) 668-0033 www.backintimetoys.com/ [email protected] Bartons Toys Megan Beidl 88 Folly Road Blvd. Charleston, SC 29407 (843) 723-7419 www.bartonstoys.com puffi[email protected] Boardwalk Joshua Githens 1175 Woods Crossing Rd., Ste #6 Greenville, SC 29607 (864) 297-6924 www.boardwalkgreenville.com [email protected] Browseabout Shops, Inc. Susan Kehoe 133 Rehoboth Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 (302) 226-2665 www.browseaboutbooks.com [email protected] C.A.R.E Jamilah Rahim 3341 N Leavitt, Unit 1s Chicago, IL 60618 (312) 912-1901 [email protected] Designs by Chad and Jake Steven Gottsegen 1101 South Rogers Cir., Ste. 18 Boca Raton, FL 33487 (561) 997-6675 [email protected]

Duck Duck Goose Yvonne Stobie 43 River St. Milford, CT 06460 (203) 874-6206 www.duckduckgoosect.com [email protected] Education Express, Inc. Morgan Womick 820 Factory Shops Blvd. Gaffney, SC 29341 (704) 979-1507 [email protected] Kidz on Board LLC Mark Schmidt (To be determined) Allentown, PA 18104 (570) 590-1884 [email protected] Koala Commerce Cordelia Blake 3767 Captain Dr. Atlanta, GA 30341 (678) 860-3754 www.koalacommerce.com [email protected] MadeInUSAShop/ SagamoreSales Tom Forristell 8656 Penfield Dr. Northfield, OH 44067 (330) 840-9636 [email protected] Modern Natural Baby Emily Murray 200 W 9 Mile Rd. Ste. B Ferndale, MI 48220 (734) 837-1181 www.modernnaturalbaby.com [email protected]

astratoy.org • October 2015


astratoy.org • October 2015


Welcomes Its Newest Manufacturer Members Brackett Creative LLC Brookline, MA www.brackettcreative.com We are a company dedicated to the development of new business ideas, concepts, and design. We manage a growing portfolio of innovative new products that are sourced both internally and from external partners. Our latest game, Drawest!, is a fun card-based drawing game that helps develop player creativity and imagination.

Funology Innovations LLC Myrtle Beach, SC www.funologyzone.com Funology Innovations, best known for its award-winning EcoAquarium, is eager to expand young minds with smart ways to play! The EcoAquarium is a balanced, miniature eco-system that requires no additional chemicals, filters, or aerations. The EcoAquarium with African Dwarf Frogs is a hit with kids and adults. Coming Soon – Bettas and Fancy Guppies.

CreoPop Beachwood, OH www.creopop.com The CreoPop 3D printer pen is the first-ofits-kind, cool-to-the-touch, cordless 3D printer pen that allows you to draw in three dimensions! With our amazing array of inks (magnetic, aromatic, elastic, glow-in-the-dark, etc.) that harden using onboard LED lights, users’ creativity is only limited by what they can dream up.

Getta1Games Sarasota, FL www.getta1games.com Getta1Games was born in 2011 around a simple idea: Games should be fun! Whether you’re looking for retro, wooden family games, high-quality educational games, or some cool and quirky gift games, we’ve got ‘em! Games connect friends and family like nothing else and that’s why we’re serious about fun!

Dream Blocks Stratford, CT www.dreamblocks.com Welcome to Dream Blocks – where the world of classic wooden blocks combines with leading brand connector blocks to take children to a whole new level of play! Creative, engaging, and educational printed artwork, with no decals, insures a guaranteed level of quality to provide generations of lasting play.

Lammily Flanders, NJ www.lammily.com Lammily is the only American fashion doll that has realistic body proportions based on a REAL girl, which helps promote healthy self-esteem for young children. Along with her realistic proportions, Lammily has a variety of fashions and accessories that are sold separately. We hope to empower children one doll at a time.

EQtainment LLC Austin, TX www.eqtainment.com EQtainment is on a mission to improve emotional intelligence globally by creating fun and simple tools for practicing social skills and better behavior. Through board games, books, plush toys and more, EQtainment is empowering parents to teach their children skills that truly create lifelong success! Our founder, Sofia Dickens, a Harvard educated mom of four, invites you to join the education revolution. Let’s have a blast helping our kids be the best that they can be!

The Chillafish Company Antwerp, Belgium www.chillafish.com Chillafish is a new species that grows and thrives in the big oceans of playful childhood, constantly creating innovative, fun and well-designed products that make life a bit more chill. It is the kind that big sharks and whales look up to for its innovative strength, its beautiful shape and its ability to create lasting values in an ever changing world: fun and function, quality and value. The Chillafish Company creates the optimal environment and support for Chillafish to thrive and make more fun and exhilarating new stuff each and every day. We are play innovation.

Fremont Die Consumer Products, Inc. Williamsburg, VA www.fremontdie.com Fremont Die is the market leader in licensed sports novelty products. For over 30 years, Fremont Die has provided exceptional customer service, quality products, fair pricing, and timely delivery to retailers throughout the country. Fremont Die’s product categories include auto accessories, home décor, board games and inflatable children’s toys.

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Whiffers Sniffers a Division of Bearington Collection Kennesaw, GA www.wiffersniffers.com The Original Whiffer Sniffers are amazingly scented characters that are making their way into stores across the nation. Fans are quickly buying them to start their own Whiffer Sniffer Collection. Bearington Collection offers the Whiffer Sniffer line in scented backpack clips, huggable plush versions ASTRA and scratch and sniff stickers.

astratoy.org • October 2015


TOY TIMES MAGAZINE, October 2015 Index of Advertisers ALEX Brands........................................................................................................... 31, 52 American Educational Products ...........................................................................38 Charles Zedah ..............................................................................................................50 Choose Friendship .....................................................................................................42 Corolle.............................................................................................................................35 Creative Toy Company ............................................................................................. 17 DeLano/EPI Printing, Inc. .........................................................................................38 Do-A-Dot Art! ................................................................................................................24 edplay .............................................................................................................................50 Folkmanis....................................................................................................................... 41 Franklin Fixtures .........................................................................................................36 GUND ...............................................................................................................................45 HABA USA ......................................................................................................................39 Harrisville Designs .....................................................................................................12 The Haywire Group....................................................................................................46 Jax Ltd., Inc. ...................................................................................................................21 KidStuff PR ....................................................................................................................30 Magformers LLC ..........................................................................................................25 Miniland Educational................................................................................................30 MukikiM LLC .................................................................................................................13 The Orb Factory ..........................................................................................................15 Outset Media .................................................................................................................. 2 The Magazine for

People Who Sell Toys

Pine Tree Publishing ..................................................................................................18 PlanToys .........................................................................................................................43 The ROB Company LLC............................................................................................. 37



years of toy stories

Safari Ltd. ......................................................................................................................... 9 Sentosphere USA ........................................................................................................28 Sophia’s .......................................................................................................................... 11 Surplus Today ..............................................................................................................19 Thames & Kosmos ......................................................................................................47 ToyFest West – WHTRA ...........................................................................................49 Unitech Toys .................................................................................................................32 Wiggles 3D ....................................................................................................................... 4 Wikki Stix .......................................................................................................................23 Winning Moves ...........................................................................................................51 Woolpets........................................................................................................................13 Zeenie Dollz .................................................................................................................. 37

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astratoy.org • October 2015