President’s Letter – October 1, 2013: Momentum into the Crucial Fourth Quarter

I am writing to you from TIA’s Fall Toy Preview, which opened this morning in Dallas, Texas. Nearly 400 manufacturers are here privately showing their 2014 lines to hundreds of long lead and mass market retailers from around the world. While Fall Toy Preview focuses primarily on new products in development for 2014, our industry’s sales in the Fourth Quarter of 2013 provide the revenues and momentum needed to support new toy creation. The data are mixed, but I am cautiously optimistic about the upcoming holiday shopping season. There are a lot of fun new toys on retail shelves.

Fun comes in many different forms, and a large contingent of toy industry executives enjoyed a hugely fun day on September 18th at TIA’s 6th annual Washington, DC Fly-In. It is hard for me to describe how much fun it was for us to meet with key senators and congressmen and press home our case for reduced testing costs, sound chemical regulations, and enhanced international trade. Our Washington, DC team, led by Ed Desmond, has taken this annual event to an entirely new level, and achieved the stature and congressional access that much larger associations only achieve after years of effort.

The Fly-In began with a dinner address by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), co-sponsor of legislation to reform our nation’s toxic chemical control laws. The event was held on a rooftop overlooking all of Washington, with the Capitol dome just over the Senator’s shoulder as he spoke.

Throughout the course of the Fly-In, teams of five to six TIA member executives met with senators and congressmen in their Capitol Hill offices.  One of the primary “asks” during these meetings was for Members of Congress to sign onto a letter requesting that the CPSC move quickly to implement measures to reduce burdensome third party testing costs as required by the CPSIA amendments of 2011. In addition, they urged lawmakers to support initiatives that ease the flow of goods to international markets – such as the U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The Fly-In culminated with a reception featuring toys and playful cartoon characters, held in a House of Representatives hearing room with a balcony above Independence Avenue. It was at this time that the formation of a Congressional Toy Caucus co-chaired by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) was announced.  The Caucus will provide a vehicle for our advocacy efforts going forward, and many Members of Congress have already signed up in support.

 As a result of these meetings and the relationships we are developing with Members of Congress and the Administration, I am optimistic that we will be able to avoid future laws that might negatively impact the toy industry – and that we will continue to have fun in the process.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Dallas this week, and I encourage you to participate in the Opening Night Party this evening, which benefits the Toy Industry Foundation; a cocktail party for young professionals, hosted by Toy Industry Next Generation later tonight; and the Women in Toys  (WIT) breakfast tomorrow morning. 

Wishing you a productive Fall Toy Preview and great success during the fourth quarter,

Warm regards to all,

Carter Keithley

Carter Keithley