ASTRA Marketplace & Academy 2012

ASTRA 2012, Baltimore, MD, Outset Media booth

Last week we exhibited at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy in Baltimore.  It is remarkable how things have changed over the years.  Our first ASTRA was waaaaaay back in 2003, held that year in Broomfield, Colorado.  How time flies!

The floor space has sure increased since our first ASTRA.  Back then, exhibition space was limited to two hotel ballrooms, and I can’t recall anybody having more than an 8’ x 10’ booth.

Even with the increased floor space, ASTRA has still managed to keep its intimate atmosphere. Although, free ice cream sure helps accomplish that!

What surprised me was the amount of “Made in the USA” product.  The amount of American-made product has certainly increased this year.  We at Outset Media have actively started sourcing more product in North America.  Our target is to manufacture 80% of our board games and 100% of our Cobble Hill jigsaw puzzles domestically.  And, based on what we saw at ASTRA, apparently we weren’t the only ones!

It was also good to see some Canadian retailers walking the ASTRA show.

The most interesting comment we heard – from more than one retailer – was that they were considering dropping New York Toy Fair in favor of ASTRA.  Imagine that!

It was very interesting to see Mattel exhibiting this year.  We heard a few grumblings from some exhibitors about this – as Mattel isn’t your prototypical specialty supplier – but I think their presence was great.  It sure gives credibility to the specialty toy industry when the largest toy company in the world views the specialty industry as being important enough to justify exhibiting at ASTRA.

What was extremely encouraging was the level of optimism among the attendees.  Retailers were upbeat!  Retailers were writing purchase orders!  Retailers were shopping for new products!  Retailers were trying new suppliers!  Retailers were positive about the future!!!

Attendance seemed up this year.  In fact, our biggest complaint was that we needed more time to talk to everyone.  Next year, we certainly will need to bring one more person to help staff our booth.


As Canadian retailers, we were glad to see North American suppliers like Outset Media at ASTRA, too! It's a great show, and the positive vibe given off by suppliers and retailers alike will go a long way towards making 2012 a good year for all of us. And the Cobble Hill puzzles looked great, by the way--expect an order soon.