President's Letter: COVID-19: Toy Association Actions to Support Members & Families Across North America
March 24, 2020 | In this time of risk and uncertainty, The Toy Association team is fully mobilized to both proactively and responsively act to protect our members and the wider toy and play community, and to reach out to the parents and families we all serve. Toy companies are being hit with business restrictions and mandated closures, specialty retailers are striving to connect with customers, supply and distribution chains are disrupted, and families are searching for ways to keep children active and productively engaged in learning.
For the Association, it is too easy to say we’re all working so therefore it’s business as usual. This is anything but usual – we are experiencing unprecedented times. What we do, how we work, and where we focus is changing daily and hourly to meet the needs of our friends and colleagues across the business of toys. Our entire team is equipped with the technology and communications tools to keep pushing forward and foremost, we’re committed to you.
Among a range of actions and updates that follow in this note, right now convincing lawmakers that toys and playthings are indeed something of an essential business for families with a house full of kids is urgent. Sales have been robust for many, but now gates are falling, businesses are being closed, employees furloughed, and distribution lines constricted just when consumers want your products most. You will be hearing more from us very shortly as we will be asking you to sign-on and distribute letters, make calls, and advocate to keep toys, games, and all else in our categories flowing to parents and kids who seeking them. We need everyone’s voice added to ours. And, we continue to seek access to resources and financial relief that governments are debating.
COVID-19 Resource Center
While we quickly launched a resource at toyassociation.org weeks ago and continue make regular updates, the team wanted to do more. On Monday, more depth and connections to small business loans and information from OSHA, EPA, and Homeland Security among others were added. Please bookmark the page to stay updated.
Emerging and Urgent Issues
- State-mandated business closures are impacting a range of companies and especially members who are “Made in America.” We’re working on this issue in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and other locations. We’re also encouraging waiver processes. For example, the New York State application may be found here.
- As Congress and legislatures shift priorities, the work of our Federal and State Government Affairs Committees and External Affairs team continues, making certain no risks to the industry go unaddressed while also working to surface new issues and protect businesses as swift changing coronavirus-related rules and regulations are discussed by lawmakers.
- The toy world continues to face challenges with outrageous new 60 percent tariffs in India on toys made in China as well as a burdensome new quality control measure. The Toy Association External Affairs team is working with and communicating with colleagues at our counterpart toy association in India, has weighed in with the Indian Bureau of Standards, and I have communicated with the Ministry of Commerce. India is just one location where our team remains active.
- Many toymakers and Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) sellers are concerned about the recent announcement that Amazon has prioritized incoming shipments of vital goods directly related to the outbreak while blocking others. It has been stated that this policy is in place through April 5 and will be reevaluated. As the same situation has occurred elsewhere in the retail sector, we simply encourage patience and know that both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sellers want to offer toys and play products, but also have many challenges to master first.
- Our colleagues at the China Toy and Juvenile Products Association report that China is allowing 50 percent of their staff back into their offices each day yet are still under strict anti-virus procedures. In-person meetings are not encouraged, and big conferences and exhibitions planned for the first half of the year are cancelled or postponed. Likewise, with each passing day more and more factories increase capacity, which is pegged at three quarters or better, and output is now refilling the distribution pipeline. Companies are reporting product moving which is especially important as demand remains strong in many markets around the world, including those impacted by COVID-19.
Take Advantage of Business Tools
- Think about The Toy Association’s digital resource ShopToys365.com to keep your social distance while keeping business moving forward. ShopToys365.com is a year-round platform and showroom resource to connect with toy buyers. Very soon, we will announce full integration of major video conferencing sites so that full-blown live sales meetings may occur right up to and including purchases made immediately. This is in addition to the existing 24 hours a day ordering option. Contact Stacy Liebensohn for more information on the advantages of ShopToys365, including the upcoming video conferencing utility and how to start using the resource today.
- Now’s also the time to take advantage of our business education programming. Stay knowledgeable on evolving toy safety regulations and standards by enrolling in The Toy Association’s Safety Education Program. Through this on-demand course, everyone on your staff team can aid their professional development and receive a detailed overview of the key state, federal, and international toy safety requirements. A certificate of completion is awarded for all who take the course and pass each element. The Safety Education Program is free to members.
- Embrace sustainability! The Smart Packaging Initiative (SPI) Tool is an established resource to help reduce the environmental impact of toy packaging. Get a quick jump start by reviewing this Q&A with Al Kaufman of The Toy Association team.
Educational Resources Available to Your Teams
- All the Association’s upcoming webinars will continue as planned. Watch your email and Toy News Tuesday for listings.
- It’s a great time to catch-up! Past webinar recordings are available free of charge to Toy Association members. Non-members interested in purchasing webinar recordings may contact email@example.com.
- The Genius of Play continues as a world-class resource for the developmental benefits of play. The site and its assets can be used to bolster your own company’s messaging as many are offering toy and game ideas as resources to parents and teachers trying to balance working at home with kids. We also just launched a great new section – Learning at Home Resources While Social Distancing – full of great ideas and well worth sharing widely!
While looking at data from past recessions and subsequent recoveries shows hopeful good news for quick turnarounds for the business of toys once normal rhythms and patterns of society reemerge, today we exist in a fundamentally different and evolving retail environment with a diverse generation of new consumers functioning in an unalike world. The way back for the toy and play sector will take time while our ability to work together, share, and help one another will absolutely hasten recovery for all. Let’s each give a hand and do whatever we can to help our friends and competitors alike to rise.
Finally, Let’s Not Be Distant
Physically, yes! In all other respects, let’s connect and please put those of us at your Association to work! How can we help and serve you? The road ahead will be long and the impacts on business sustainability and survival many. Never hesitate to reach out to any Association team member or to me. We’re here to serve you, plain and simple.
Please make certain all your folks are subscribed! Toy News Tuesday (TNT) and targeted communications will continue to flow from The Toy Association. We need to cast as wide a net as possible. Please share this link to subscribe to TNT and our news alerts.
Stay safe! Stay healthy! Spread love! All the best to you, your families, your employees, and your co-workers. We will each emerge wiser and grateful when this has passed.
President & CEO
Follow me on Twitter @StevePasierb