President’s Letter: Embrace the Disrupt

April 23, 2018 | Borrowing from a colorful military phrase, it’s time we accept this thing that is extremely unpleasant but unavoidable. Change, disruption, uncertainty – what have you – is here.  While many fret, the agile among us are mobilizing to find opportunity and exploit it. Toys are a uniquely entrepreneurial field that has continually demonstrated that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. 

The U.S. toy industry is indeed at an inflection point called Toys“R”Us. 2018 will be the journey of liquidation, some wreckage, recovery for financially-injured manufacturers, and a serious sorting out for many, all toward making certain 2019 is a much brighter, stronger year. Lines will find new distribution channels. New channels will be created. Consumers will discover toys in new and surprising venues.  Parents will continue to buy toys for birthdays, holidays, or “just because.” They’ll do it at retail doors of all sizes and types, online, and through the magic created by independent neighborhood toy stores. 

The irony of Toys“R”Us thriving in Asia, and apparently stabilizing in Europe and Canada, shouldn’t have us lamenting the fortunes of the nation that invented the enterprise. That latter fact is the point. The United States remains an inventive leader in the world of toys. The ingenuity, passion, grit, and resilience of our toy community has been proven time and again over the years and in adverse days.  Eyes on the prize – the trophy being 2019 and beyond. 

These are disruptive times, and while our members are relentlessly focused on their businesses, The Toy Association is relentlessly focused on protecting your businesses, including your rights to do business.  The threats are many, from Vermont’s Senate 103 bill that could potentially remove an established working group process and place decisions to pull products into the hands of an individual, to Oregon’s onerous Toxic Free Kids process we must now navigate. We’re protecting members from the uncertainty of tariff threats, helping with the challenges of compliance with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and focused on the unceasing urgency of protecting intellectual property. It’s an annual myriad collection of new bills, proposed regulations, threats, and challenges. We focus on all these, so you can focus on growing your businesses.

We all face other forms of disruption, from evolving consumer behavior, to the rise of e-commerce, to screen time, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR), to economic uncertainty and political unsteadiness here at home and in markets around the world – just to mention a few. So, we must accept that change will be our constant and that the rate of change will certainly increase. So, let’s meet it head on. Let’s embrace the disrupt. 

Finally, be sure to watch The Toy Association website and scan Toy News Tuesday for key webinars, calls for legislative advocacy, regulatory alerts, and other timely items essential to your continued business success. As I write this, the next important event is a member conference call this Thursday, April 26 at 2 p.m. (Eastern) as we will hear directly from legal counsel and financial advisors representing Toys“R”Us.

Our journey together through 2018 portends healing. We anticipate a return to growth as we progress through 2019. And, prosperity in the mid- and long-term years to come. Here’s to the future!

All good wishes,

Steve Pasierb
Follow me on twitter @StevePasierb