More than 150 store members of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), including several bookstores that sell toys, celebrated Neighborhood Toy Store Day on Saturday, November 12.
Special programs at toy stores around the country on Saturday featured crafts, local entertainers, scavenger hunts, product discounts, and charity drives. The first Neighborhood Toy Store Day was launched in 2010 to highlight and celebrate neighborhood toy stores and the outstanding products, expertise, and service they provide to their localities.
ASTRA president Kimberly Mosley said the event, which took its cue from Record Store Day, is a great opportunity for members to make inroads in their communities, especially right before the holidays.
“Neighborhood Toy Store Day is an opportunity for our indie toy stores to open their doors to their community and to invite them to come in and be a part of the store,” said Mosley. “Stores host different types of events, everything from coloring contests to kit-making and games. Some of our retailers also do philanthropic things, like asking customers to make a purchase and a certain amount is donated to an organization. This year, for example, one store is working with their local museum.”
“It’s also a great way for our retailers to kick off the holiday buying season,” she added. “It’s a chance for our retailers to give back, but also for communities to show them love and come in and participate in the events. It really helps people feel like this is their neighborhood toy store.”
ASTRA has 848 active members, including 41 bookstores, said Mosley. The only qualification for stores to join the organization is a commitment to providing quality toys for children that emphasize the importance and the power of play.
4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana, has memberships in both ASTRA and the American Booksellers Association and celebrates both Neighborhood Toy Store Day and Indies First on Small Business Saturday. The highlight of this year’s Indies First celebration at 4 Kids Books & Toys will be Readapalooza, which brings in children from the community to work as guest booksellers. Kids who participate on November 26 will receive a free apron and name tag, enjoy a staff lunch, and pose for a staff photo.
4 Kids owner Cynthia Compton said Neighborhood Toy Store Day is always a great kickoff to the holiday season, especially this year, occurring as it did right after the distractions of the World Series and the election.
“It’s the day we convert our store decor to the holidays, have all of our seasonal merchandise out, introduce our holiday wish lists for customers, and promote our ‘Best of 2016’ lists,” said Compton. “Sales are always strong, but this year we saw increases in both games and picture book categories.”
To make the most of the day this year, ASTRA offered its store members a trove of images, marketing materials, and event support resources, which Compton said she used to help draw in more customers.
“The ability to share those materials with the outside consultants that I use to produce customer communication, signage, and other marketing pieces was so very valuable,” said Compton.
Going forward, ASTRA will send out a survey to get a better idea of how many store members participated in this year’s event as well as to gather more information about all the events held. Stores and customers were also encouraged this year to post pictures on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using #NTSD16.
“I think as the celebration is gaining traction, we are finding that a lot of our store members are seeing it as a real opportunity: not just our retailers but our sales reps and manufacturers,” said Dee Marsden, ASTRA communication and marketing specialist, who noted that this year’s event turned out the highest-ever number of participating manufacturers. “Manufacturers offer product specials and sales reps do demos and giveaways to really support these independents and bring more consumer traffic into the store.”