by Kimberly Mosley, president, American Specialty Toy Industry Association (ASTRA)
The closing of Toys “R” Us stores nationwide is the latest example of ongoing change and evolution in the toy industry. Yet one thing remains constant: Children need fun toys and play experiences that support their healthy development.
Another constant: Many of our most poignant childhood memories involve toys and play. No doubt, generations of kids will remember happy times at Toys “R” Us over the years—and that’s how it should be. But you can rest assured that we don’t have to stop making those wonderful memories. Let me introduce you to your new toy store and invite you to start enjoying good times there!
If you are a Toys “R” Us shopper or a toy buyer with treasured children in your life, there is something you can do right now to ensure you can find great toys they will adore and great stores where memories will be made. Looking to discover a whole new world of top quality toys waiting to add magic to your childrens’ lives?
What will you find when you click on that link? Think of it as the other national network of toy stores kids will beg to visit now that Toys “R” Us is leaving your area. You will find hundreds of small, friendly toy stores that simply exude fun—and all are members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA).
These stores are locally owned by retailers who live in your community and know it well—not distant, detached stockholders who have never been to your town or possibly never even heard of it! They may have charming names such as Pufferbellies, Wonder Works, Geppetto’s, kiddywampus, Becky & Me, or Mud Puddles—this reflects their individual ownership and creativity—but they are all part of the ASTRA informal network of top-notch destinations for family fun and great toys. If there is not one in your neighborhood, many offer toys online as well.
You can count on ASTRA stores for:
- Carefully selected innovative and classic toys kids love
- Products that support healthy child development
- Exceptional customer service
- Store staff who know toys inside out
- Free services like gift wrapping (varies by store)
- Fun, family-centered in-store play activities
- A wonderful, low-stress shopping experience
What you won’t find is an overwhelming big box store loaded with cheaply-made toys that are full of electronic gizmo razzmatazz to capture children’s attention—briefly capture, that is—until the next one distracts them and diverts their attention. The toys you’ll find at ASTRA stores are different because they engage kids less with features and more with imaginative, self-directed play, which comes so naturally and joyfully to kids. The toys are made to last—through all the kids in the family, and then maybe all the cousins and the next generation as well. These are the kind of toys that become treasures—the kind that are about the features of the play rather than the features of the toy.
At your neighborhood toy store, it’s not about what the toy can do—it’s about what the child can do with the toy.
And don’t forget, when you pull out your credit card at a locally owned toy store, more of your dollar stays in your community, supports your local economy, and helps to create jobs. When you shop an ASTRA store, chances are you’ll come face to face with the owner, who has invested locally and has a long-term commitment to your area.
The end of Toys “R” Us leaves many with the kind of mixed emotions that come with what we can consider the end of the era of big toy store chains. Now it’s time to discover the smaller stores—the gems that have been in your community all along.
Come on in! We would love to meet you and your children! We can’t promise that your kids will want to leave, but we can promise that it will be fun to explore a whole new world of toys right in your neighborhood. And we can promise memories that all of you will treasure in the years to come.
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.