President’s Letter – January 10, 2017: Outlook for the Business of Toys

I greet the New Year with optimism that the U.S. toy community will sustain growth.  We saw leaps in both 2015 and 2016, thanks to our industry’s deep creativity, inventiveness and business acumen, qualities that augur well for the future. I am encouraged by trends that have the potential to fuel positive sales through holiday ’17, including immersive tech toys, active play, family games, collectibles, the continued positive influence of licensing, and STEM/STEAM toys that are now foremost fun and educational.

Make no mistake, however, that we will be met with challenges. No recent issue has raised more questions or caused more concern for the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and our members than the possibility of the new Administration and Congress raising tariffs on imported products – as well as the potential for a trade war with China. While much remains to be seen as Washington debates comprehensive tax reform, any proposals for a Border Adjustment Tax are of deep concern to toymakers. On the upside, promises of reduced regulatory burdens and the potential lowering of corporate tax rates bode well for the health of all companies in the toy and play space. Our team remains relentlessly focused on these issues and on protecting the toy industry.

In 2016, TIA reached new levels of impactful government and media communications as well as success in educating consumers about the strict standards and regulations that ensure the safety of all toys sold in the U.S. We proactively and aggressively pushed back on your behalf against false NGO claims and we believe these intensive efforts over the past two years have successfully influenced a change in their approach. For example, U.S. PIRG’s 2016 Trouble in Toyland report focused almost exclusively on recounting existing regulations and simply questioning recall effectiveness. We continue to urge parents and caring adults to shop only at reputable stores and online retailers, and to stay up-to-date on any recalls announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. I am confident that TIA’s advocacy will continue to dispel myths and mistruths as we emphasize our industry’s deep commitment to safe play for all children.

Success in our lengthy pursuit of reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was another major accomplishment for TIA in 2016. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (LCSA) was signed into law by President Obama on June 22. Among a host of improvements and benefits, this legislation should help greatly with state preemption.  Our TSCA/LCSA work takes on new urgency in 2017 as responsibility for implementation moves to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We’ve added resources to make certain our members’ interests and voices are acknowledged by EPA and within the new processes. 

Member service remains paramount! We are keenly aware of our members’ evolving needs. The TIA team currently has the honor of serving more than 900 diverse companies. With an eye toward a different future, our board of directors recently approved a new four-year strategic plan that adds focus to global advocacy and market access initiatives, elevating the public image of the toy industry and helping to develop the next generation of leaders in member companies. Of course, concentrating on our core services like sustaining effective government affairs; driving influential annual market events such as New York Toy Fair and Fall Toy Preview, expanding our digital platform,; growing our burgeoning business-to-consumer show, Play Fair; and other vital elements of an effective trade association are without question. In total, we must continually improve the member experience and realize our members of all sizes are more and more active on the global stage, where we need to be at their side.

Closer to home, I’m excited to share that TIA will launch a new branding initiative this spring that will change the Association name, unveil a fresh logo that’s more appealing to our key stakeholders and significantly increase our digital presence later this summer. We’ll also be moving into fresh new NYC headquarters that include offices and meeting rooms for our members’ use when in the city. Stay tuned for more on these exciting initiatives focused on TIA’s future.

A New Year is no time to rest on one’s laurels. Quick shifts in retail buying patterns and consumer preferences, new laws and regulations, and global issues can each toss our industry on its ear. Yet, I remain deeply optimistic that the passion and smarts found throughout our industry will prevail.  We all love kids, and we want to bring them joy and the developmental benefits associated with play. I look forward to continuing our work together to create an ever stronger and more dynamic toy community. Never hesitate to reach out to me with your ideas on how we can better serve you and your companies!

All good wishes,

Steve Pasierb

Follow me on Twitter @StevePasierb