Specialty Toy TECH

Kim Mosley (center) with ASTRA staff members (from left) Amanda Zawad, Katie Marso, Maggie Bridger, Dee Marsden and Laura Dann.

ASTRA’s new president will use her computer prowess – among other skills – to help strengthen member businesses and the organization as a whole

Kim Mosley was three weeks into her new job when I asked her to describe a typical day. “I have not yet had one,” she told me, “other than every day is filled with learning. And learning requires listening. I get off the train every day and remind myself that my ears are more important than my mouth. I try to make listening the cornerstone of my interactions with staff, volunteers, members … well, everyone.”

There’s a lot for Kim to hear. The premier association for the specialty toy industry, headquartered in Chicago, offers its 1700 members a lengthy list of services including a highly successful trade show that’s just seven months away. Other big events, like the Sixth Annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day, are happening now.

Clear precedents

It might be difficult for Kim to determine priorities if it weren’t for four strategic initiatives the association developed in 2013. Designed to maintain and enhance the health of the specialty toy industry, they are designed to increase

1. Cooperation among member segments.

2. Professionalism through education and certification.

3. Members’ understanding and use of technology.

4. The number of retail outlets through effective engagement of the next generation of owners.

Kim explains that each one is grounded in the fact that many retail members are approaching retirement age; that new competitors continually come and go; and that the industry can become stronger by professionalizing some roles and by increasing collaboration among channel participants (retailers, manufacturers and sales reps).

What’s more, “Businesses that embrace technology will gain from efficiencies, and from a deeper connection with customers who live in a technology fueled world,” she said in a recent interview. “One specific charge that the ASTRA Board has given me is to provide tools and education to help members adopt technology to improve their business.”

The Implementer

Kim came to ASTRA from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), where she was vice president of management information systems and chief information officer. “Among my colleagues, I was known as the one who could get it done,” she says. “I can diagnose the need, apply the right technology solutions, and use creativity to encourage adoption and use of those solutions.”

She plans to put her experience to good use at ASTRA. Her efforts to leverage technology will not only be about the tools members need; they will also include what ASTRA as an association needs. “We can use data analytics to determine member satisfaction and define member engagement. Technology can also help ASTRA grow, increase operational efficiency and reduce costs. It allows us to use member dues more effectively and help our members be more successful,” she explains.

“A year from now, members will experience more support through social media and other rapidly improving technologies. They will find increased member value as ASTRA uses data analytics to meet individual expectations with tailored member benefits.”

Celebrating stores

Surprisingly, the tech expert says the biggest opportunities are in ASTRA members’ brick-and-mortar stores. “Research shows that 73 percent of consumers want to touch merchandise before they make a purchase,” Kim notes. “It is no wonder that online retailers are beginning to open physical stores.”

No one understands the “people side” of retailing better than specialty toy retailers. “Today’s consumers have so many options that the total experience of choosing the products they want in their lives is more important than the product itself,” she continues. “Even more important, our retailers have the opportunity to own play as they become local experts on healthy play in their communities. They are uniquely positioned to engage customers, educate them on the importance of play, and develop a connection that makes the customer feel heard and special.

“Our stores are also perfectly positioned to provide multi-channel support, in situations where online and in-store experiences complement one another.”

Addressing the constant threat of competition, “in whatever way it comes at us,” Kim says that she and the Board are working to anticipate and address new threats as they emerge. “The challenge is to be quick and innovative enough to respond, while at the same time maintaining our unique competitive advantages.”

Leadership skills

Kim is eager to work with ASTRA’s board to continue implementing the strategic initiatives – and additional ones as emerging needs are identified. She has extensive experience tackling business problems by addressing them “with innovative and affordable solutions that work.”Among the many large-scale initiatives she has planned and implemented are
• centralized data management,
• Voice of Customer (VOC) programs,
• implementation of chapters of the national organization,
• website redesigns to support sites as destinations and for e-commerce activities, and
• centralized customer service center.

As a Certified Association Executive, Kim is also a leader. She feels very comfortable with ASTRA’s member-driven association model, and has worked with – and on – committees and task forces at ACHE, the American Society of Association Executives, and the Association Forum of Chicagoland, including the Certified Association Executive Commission.

Developing leadership skills in others

In ASTRA’s Toy Times Magazine, Kim discussed the need “to build a rich diverse community, given the shifts in U.S. population related to age, ethnicity, race and gender.

“This is such an exciting opportunity for the specialty toy industry,” she says, and described a recent meeting the ASTRA Board convened with a group of young specialty-toy entrepreneurs – store owners, sales reps and manufacturers. They shared their vision of where they could go in the industry and how they could get there.

“The Board has committed to working with me to support these emerging leaders, starting with asking them to serve on an advisory committee,” she continued. “We will also explore adding or deepening a mentoring program, student memberships, an internship program and a scholarship program. Our enhanced education and credentialing programs are well positioned to support these efforts.”


 

On November 14, during Neighborhood Toy Store Day, Kim will be in an ASTRA toy store, “Of course!” She and her staff each picked a store in the Chicago area where they will show up to support, offer an extra set of hands, take pictures, and just generally pitch in.

The next big event is Toy Fair in New York. “That’s when I’ll meet our valued members in person,” says Kim. “I wish I didn’t have to wait until February!”

Circling back to the “typical day” question, I asked Kim what she would enjoy doing all day if money were not an issue. “My greatest joy is time with family and friends, and I am blessed to have many,” she answered. “There is nothing better than spending time and relaxing with them … unless it is traveling with them. Italy, France and Egypt are on my travel bucket list.”

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