Is the brick and mortar retail model dead?  A vehement NO! was the consensus of three separate round table discussions held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from May 16-18, 2017.  Sales representatives, retail store owners and manufacturer members of ASTRA met in their respective groups to discuss how online sales have affected brick and mortar retail and what the future holds.

ASTRA Focus Group - Retailers.png
ASTRA retailer members share their opinions and experiences with facilitator Roger Bildsten  (Left to right: Joanne Farrugia of JaZams in Princeton, NJ; Steve Nordhus of Toy Zone in Rochester, MN; Ann Kienzle of *play in Chicago, IL; Amy Saldanha of kiddywampus in Hopkins, MN; Joe Novak of Kazoo Toys in Atlanta, GA; and Kate Tanner of Kidstop Toys & Books in Scottsdale, AZ)

Overall, the conclusions from all three discussions were the same:

  • Online is here to stay –with positive as well as detrimental effects. Look for the positives!
  • Brick and mortar retail stores are essential to manufacturers, sales reps, consumers and online businesses.
  • How consumers shop and what they spend their money on is rapidly changing. There are ways for everyone to benefit from this if we re-create how we market to our customers.
  • We’re all in this together and communication is the key to everyone’s success.
    ASTRA Focus Group - Manufacturers
    ASTRA manufacturer members share their insights (Left to right: Dianne Castro of GUND in Edison, NJ; Dee Farrell of Neat-Oh! International LLC in Northfield, IL; TJ Simmons of Kahootz Toys in Ann Arbor, MI; Steve Weber of PlayMonster in Beloit, WI. Not pictured: Shenaya Shannon of MW Wholesale – MindWare in Roseville, MN; Jonathon Seely Kreisman of Beka, Inc in St. Paul, MN; and Bill Stephenson of Spy Alley Partners LLP in Maple Grove, MN)


    ASTRA Focus Group - Sales Reps.png
    ASTRA member sales representatives at the focus group (Left to right: Seth Kulics of KSM Kulics Sales and Marketing in Jordan, MN; Ryan Pedersen of Rocket Rep in Northbrook, IL; Lillian Davis of Diverse Marketing in Lee’s Summit, MO; Nicole Bortnick of BGN Sales in Chicago, IL; Jeff Garb of Jeff Garb & Associates in Needham, MA; Erin Griffin of The Erin Griffin Group in Parker, CO; Betsey Harney of Sugar B Sales in Renton, WA; and facilitator Roger Bildsten of Hip Hooray LLC in Minneapolis, MN)

ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy, the annual trade show and conference for the specialty toy industry, is fast approaching. As part of the Academy education, a panel of speakers will provide a follow-up to the round-table discussions and present the positive effects of online retail that increase business for all in the toy industry. In challenging times it’s more important than ever to spend time and resources on your business. Meeting with your colleagues to share ideas, learn new tactics and reinforce the positive actions that you are already taking to grow your business is essential to your business growth and your own personal well-being.

There’s still time to register and take advantage of the opportunities for product sourcing, networking and educational sessions with your toy industry colleagues at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy.  Register at


Sue Warfield is the Director of Member Relations at ASTRA. With more than 30 years of experience in the retail and toy business, Sue offers insight into industry trends and tips and works to connect the retailers, sales representatives, manufacturers and affiliates in the specialty toy retailing arena. Contact Sue at