Features Industry Outlook

ASTRA Looks Ahead to 2021

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By Sue Warfield

Our members, ASTRA and our industry as a whole learned much from 2020. Our mission of providing good quality products that promote play has never been stronger nor our understanding of how important our connection is to one another. Going forward into 2021 I step back and consider the quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

Christopher Robin says to Pooh: “Promise me you will always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

This truly has been what our retail, manufacturer, sales rep and affiliate members have proven to be. With the need to change the way we all do business and work with one another, often with less staff and reduced budgets, the innovation and creativeness that has emerged has been amazing. The need to address new concerns about inventory availability and the change in buying habits of the consumer are at the top of our members’ needs for 2021.

To that end, as we move through 2021 with continued uncertain times, we have learned to be flexible. ASTRA is ready to take on the ever-changing landscape. With each new challenge, we know we need to be ready to adjust and modify how we gather, how we communicate and how we keep our community connected.

From feedback after our ASTRA Camp in August of 2020, we learned that our members need to “see and talk” with each other in whatever ways are available in our socially distanced world. How do we do this in 2021?

We will be hosting our second virtual show – ASTRA Winter Camp. From February 19-23 we are gathering virtually to see and hear about new products, share ideas and work together to better understand the new issues with which we are all faced. And, of course, we’re taking the time to socialize and play through our evening events.

We are continuing on with Zoom gatherings for our members to connect live and discuss current issues. We will be hosting “town hall” meetings, via Zoom, to allow our members to keep up with the most up-to-date information needed to keep on top of the constantly changing issues.

We have moved the dates of our Marketplace & Academy from June to August 5 – 8. We are looking forward to actually connecting in-person in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As we watch for the stabilization of the pandemic, we look to meeting our members where they are — be it regional gift shows or simply regional get-togethers.

Our board of directors as well as members at large have stepped up to become more involved with helping our reduced staff with everyday operations. Their input will continue to move us in the directions required to address the new and more immediate resources needed by each of our member groups.

While 2020 brought us struggles, it also made us more aware of how important community is. Local community, family community, neighborhood community and industry community, we need to work together and support one another. ASTRA used the phrase “Mighty Together” long before 2020 and it could not be more appropriate as we continue through 2021 and beyond. We envision an even greater connection with our colleagues in the toy, book, gift and independent business communities as we move forward. We’ve all been braver in trying new ideas, new ways to do business and taking risks. We’ve been stronger – working harder with less. We’ve been smarter as we have learned new technology. It has been tiresome, but we made it through 2020 and will be better for it as we navigate 2021.

The street artist from the UK, Bansky, said it best: “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

Bring on 2021 – ASTRA is all in!

This piece appeared in the February 2021 issue of TFE Magazine.