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Toy Shoppers Are Turning To Independent Retailers;

Neighborhood Toy Store Day, November 11, Celebrates Shopping Local with Certified Play Experts

CHICAGO, Nov. 9, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to play – and what really appeals to shoppers – local independent toy stores are ahead of the game.  According to a recent Washington Post article, "Throughout the country, independent toy stores are seeing a revival as parents -– and their children - look for unique shopping experiences that stand out at a time when so many of their shopping habits have been reduced to impersonal clicks of a button."

November 11 marks Neighborhood Toy Store Day, an annual celebration in which independent toy shops kick off the holiday season with special events to introduce consumers to the benefits of shopping local. The events include child-friendly activities such as face painting, craft projects, live performances and, in many toy stores, a charitable component to give back to their local communities.

As it works its way through bankruptcy, Toys 'R Us is reinventing itself as a "champion of play" -- pushing a new "Today We Play" slogan, even adding play spaces in a select number of stores. Turns out, the big guys may be learning some lessons from their independent competitors.

According to PwC's 2017 Holiday Outlook survey of 2,395 consumers, 88 percent said they would shop in physical stores this holiday season, and more than half of survey respondents said they will shop at smaller specialty or independent retailers. Forty three percent were planning to buy toys. 

"Specialty retailers characteristically foster a one-on-one relationship with customers, naturally creating a welcoming environment," according to the PwC report.

In a 2015 study of local businesses vs. national chains, local businesses were seen as far outperforming national chains in a number of areas. 96 percent of respondents felt local businesses were better at personalizing service.

It's that personalized customer service – and knowledge about how to choose the right toys -- that distinguishes small toy retailers from mass merchants. Many of the store owners celebrating Neighborhood Toy Store Day have earned the ASTRA Certified Play Expert (CPE) designation after completing hours of research-based instruction and exams on the science behind the power of play, child development stages and learning styles, and toys as tools to enrich children's lives. ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting local toy shopping and creative, open-ended playtime for children.

"Neighborhood specialty toy store owners are the real experts when it comes to choosing toys for kids," said Kimberly Mosley, ASTRA president. "Because they spend time with kids on a daily basis in their stores and participate in certification classes to learn more about childhood development, they understand the value of play and what types of toys encourage playtime."

These stores carefully curate their selections, tending toward unique designs from smaller, more innovative companies–guaranteeing that customers will find high-quality items that delight and foster healthy, active play, without having to comb through the aisles.

Specialty stores also often let kids try out the toys before buying, while gift wrapping services save time for busy moms and dads.

For more information on Neighborhood Toy Store Day and to find your neighborhood toy store, visit


Founded in 1992, the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) is an international not-for-profit trade organization that develops and supports a membership of independent retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives in the toy industry. Inspired to change the world through the power of play, ASTRA is a community of dedicated professionals committed to providing children with healthy, quality play materials that have a high play value and are designed with a focus on what the child can do, rather than what the toy can do. Through certification programs, educational resources and networking opportunities, ASTRA equips and empowers members to make a positive impact on the economy and culture of the communities they serve. For more information, visit

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