Independents’ Day • The Toy Guide

Specialty retailers and producers carry the torch for innovation, job creation, and giving again to the group.

From the 2023 Classics & Specialty Issue of The Toy Guide: The world of specialty retail is evolving. Over the previous decade, unbiased toy shops, present outlets, passion outlets, and comedian outlets have expanded their assortments to succeed in a broader vary of shoppers by catering to beforehand underserved age brackets and by providing distinctive merchandise and experiences that seldom exist elsewhere.

Likewise, specialty producers have unfold their wings to satisfy the demand for progressive merchandise that fill a distinct segment, have cross-generational attraction, or put contemporary spins on traditional play patterns.

Following years of development, the STEM (science, expertise, engineering, and math) class has opened the doorways for merchandise that match inside a brand new class with an equally buzzy acronym: MESH (mental, emotional, and social health).

On the intersection of specialty and mass retail is a brand new convergence of concepts which have spawned what can solely be described as “mass specialty” — multi-unit retailers with a rising footprint that extends the attain of specialty merchandise to a bigger viewers.

For an unbiased maker of toys, video games, or adjoining merchandise, success at specialty can slingshot a model into the mainstream. And, whereas the connection between specialty and mass has lengthy been contentious, the 2 can complement each other in the long term.


Forward of this 12 months’s ASTRA Market & Academy in Columbus, Ohio, The Toy Guide staff caught up with quite a lot of retailers, producers, and distributors for some perception into the place the enterprise sits as we method the mid-year mark and deal with plans for the vacation season.

Our State of Specialty Q&A (web page 20) tackles traits, wins, and the looming challenges going through these throughout the trade. On web page 30, Senior Editor Jackie Cucco shines the highlight on a trio of recent specialty retailers, together with an immersive, glow-in-the-dark toy retailer in Las Vegas.


Traditional play by no means goes out of favor, and this situation is filled with our annual take a look at some evergreen classes of which youngsters can by no means get sufficient.

Talking of classics, the Madame Alexander Doll Co. turns 100 this 12 months, and you may take a dive into its legacy with Senior Editor Madeleine Buckley on web page 70.

Then, pace over to web page 62 for a high-octane take a look at the resurgence of slot automotive racing and the way firms are connecting with a brand new technology of households.

And, whereas kidults snagged mainstream headlines final 12 months, tweens are driving new development in specialty. Editorial Assistant Hannah Sacks digs in to search out out what’s scorching with this cohort on web page 36.

Lastly, our Specialty Toys & Presents New Merchandise Showcase (web page 38) could maintain clues to the classics of tomorrow.


Small enterprise house owners and entrepreneurs embody the spirit of the American dream. Final 12 months, Loopy Aaron’s hit a milestone with 100 U.S. jobs created in Pennsylvania, and the merchandise that it makes drive gross sales for unbiased, family-owned toy shops from coast to coast. On web page 52 you’ll discover a roundup of extra merchandise made within the U.S., and on web page 97, we spotlight how Douglas leverages its plush success to present again to the group.

The Toy Guide itself is the product of a small enterprise, created by a scrappy staff that’s fueled by the relentless pursuit of excellence — similar to lots of you. We hope that you just’ll take pleasure in our 2023 Classics & Specialty issue!

Pictured Prime: Flags of Valor’s Child’s Flag Construct Equipment is crafted by veterans in Winchester, Virginia, and bought by specialty retailers and present outlets throughout the U.S.

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