There is something charming about the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Maybe it’s the show’s origin in teaching rather than selling; possibly it’s the comfortable size; perhaps it’s the ambiance of the location or it could just be the people. My guess it is all of these qualities in combination that provide the sense that you are there to talk, to learn, to make friends and, oh yes, to buy and sell.
Most major trade shows are transactional. People come to do business and that means that they are focused like a laser on turning the moment and the money invested into revenue and profit. A transactional show is essential to an industry and to the life of its constituent members. It may not, however, be as conducive to the health of the entire industry.
It is in enhancing that health that I think ASTRA really excels. So, at least to me, it really isn’t so much trade show as one big teaching opportunity combined with a love fest. It is in this teaching and nurturing of its members that ASTRA does such a service to the greater good of the toy industry. Everyone in attendance; reps, manufacturers and retailer; operates on an even playing field because they are all treated as equals, no matter what their size or stature. This creates a sense of community in which everyone has value and everyone belongs.
I particularly noticed this in one of the seminars I attended. The panel was smart and the audience (well over 100) was too. The panel did not, however, talk down to the audience or only to themselves. Rather, they and the audience were equals and engaged in a conversation in which, panelists and audience alike, shared hurts, learned lessons and bonded.