One of the things I like about ASTRA, the American Specialty Retailing Association, is that it inhabits a kind of alternative universe from the mass market oriented Toy Industry Association. The TIA is an organization that represent the interests of the larger, mass market oriented toy companies. ASTRA, on the other hand, is an organization founded by independent retailers with an eye towards the interests of the smaller, independently owned retailer and toy company.
It is with that in mind that I enjoyed reviewing ASTRA's pics for "Best Toys for Kids." They make an interesting contrast with the Toy of the Year Awards from the Toy Industry Association. There is no right or wrong. They are both worthy and, in fact, put them together and you have a pretty well rounded look at what toy professionals consider to be the best toys. (The ASTRA and the TIA Toy of the Year winners are listed on the second page of this article.)
- The first thing you notice is that there is zero overlap between the two lists. Its pretty amazing, when you think about it, but two lists celebrating the best in toys had no points of agreement. Obviously the criteria and orientation differ but it is still surprising.
- Another point of differentiation is that none of the ASTRA winners come from the toy industry's largest companies. The Toy of the Year Award list includes Disney, Hasbro, Spin Master, Fisher-Price and Lego. You won't find any of them on the ASTRA list.
- ASTRA makes no references to gender in its awards. Yes, there is an award for "Pretend - Doll Play" but it does not indicate that it is for girls. It shows that you can provide an award that may have a gender orientation without tagging it with a gender label.
- ASTRA's list does not contain any licensed brands or characters with the exception of Rubiks.
With lists as different as these two are we can take satisfaction that we work in an industry that has so much in common yet can come to such different conclusions. Bottom line: Diversity in outlook is as important as diversity in product.