This is my last column for edplay. Since I don’t care for long goodbyes, it will also be my shortest.
I have been writing editorials for this magazine for nearly 30 years now, and no one else has had a turn. That will change with the next issue, when this space will be filled by someone younger, smarter and better informed. Who will that be? I have no idea, but like you I will look forward to finding out.
When we created edplay back in 1994, the world was a very different place. Neither the internet nor cellphones had yet been broadly adopted by the general public. The Twin Towers still stood, and the nearby Javits Center was the mecca of the toy industry.
I came to the industry with a background in the school supply business where I had done a fair amount of work with specialty toy stores. From there, my partner Tom Williams and I bought Educational Dealer magazine, from which we spun off edplay.
One of our guiding principles at both magazines was that we wouldn’t avoid difficult topics. If there was something going on in the industry we would talk about it, and give others a forum for doing so. Over the years I’m sure I stepped on a few toes.
It seems fitting to me that my final column for edplay should fall in the ASTRA Marketplace issue of the magazine, because that relates back to the most controversial piece I ever wrote for this industry.
When we started this magazine, the ASTRA convention did not feature an exhibit hall, but consisted of seminars, roundtable discussions, networking events and so forth. I wrote a column in which I simply suggested that it add manufacturer exhibits to its annual gathering for three reasons.
First was that the industry needed a place to display specialty toy products on an annual basis. Second was that it would generate revenue for the association and defray the cost of providing other services. Third, if ASTRA didn’t do it someone else would, and that someone would become the de facto trade association of the industry.
From the reaction to my column you might have thought I had suggested that people should eat their children. The prevailing sentiment among retailers was that such blatant commercialism would destroy the collegial and collaborative atmosphere of the convention, and that I should mind my own business.
Within a few years, of course, exhibits were launched, and have been a great success ever since. I don’t bring all this up to say “I told you so,” but rather to point out that avoiding difficult issues doesn’t make them go away.
Now I hear there is a new toy show on the horizon, but I will let the new person figure out what to say about that development. I’m sure there will be plenty of other challenges arising over the coming years, so I will just leave you with another of our guiding principles: every problem is an opportunity.
In the meantime, I will be retiring from the day-to-day operation of this company, although I hope to do some writing or consulting or whatever. I will still have a desk here for the foreseeable future.
I have enjoyed this conversation with you over the years, one-sided though it has usually been. Should you feel inclined to continue it, please do so.
You can e-mail Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org.