On Friday, June 9, 1916 in New York City’s Herald Square, Harry C. Ives of the Ives Manufacturing Corporation called to order a meeting of 46 American toy manufacturers. Their purpose: to establish a trade association exclusively for toy makers.
According to hand-written minutes from that meeting, the object of the discussion was to “improve the toy industry in this country … stimulate the use of toys by giving publicity to American-made toys … encourage the custom of buying toys for [the] midsummer holiday to have two seasons in place of one … and be well-equipped to protect [the] industry when the war is over.”
There began the Toy Manufacturers of the U.S.A., which would later be renamed the Toy Industry Association (TIA).
Since that inaugural meeting, TIA has expanded and evolved to support the needs of a rapidly changing toy industry. From the impact of wars to the rise of the technology revolution, the Association has adapted its mission throughout the years to serve an ever-widening membership and to account for new consumer expectations, preferences and habits related to toys and play.
Today, TIA’s mission statement is “to be a unifying force for members’ creativity, responsibility and global success, advocating for their needs and championing the benefits of play.” The Association is dedicated to providing members with programs, events, services, and tools that will bring them greater prosperity in the U.S. and overseas, while simultaneously promoting the benefits of play to consumers and media.
The longevity and continued value of TIA speaks to the hard work and wisdom of all those who have helped shape the organization into a valuable resource for every business involved in creating and delivering toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages.
What started out as a trade group representing less than 50 American-based toy manufacturers has grown into a global association representing more than 950 members – including overseas companies with a vested interest in the North American marketplace. Today, TIA’s membership is comprised of toymakers, importers, licensors, toy retailers, inventors and designers, and manufacturer’s sales representatives, as well as associate members from other industries, including testing laboratories, promotion firms, consultants, trade publications, retired industry executives, and any company providing a service of value to the general membership.
TIA offers an array of member benefits, which are communicated to members via the Association’s weekly Toy News Tuesday e-newsletter, other targeted emails (such as committee emails), TIA’s website, and phone and in-person meetings. These benefits were created to help members grow and protect their businesses, provide guidance and insight into the complexities of the toy industry, and foster a community of networking.
Current benefits include: discounts on exhibit space at TIA marketplace events; expert guidance on regulatory, technical and safety issues; educational offerings including live and on-demand webinars, research and data studies; representation and advocacy of the industry’s best interests at the federal, state and local levels of government; and PR and promotional opportunities.
Forty-eight people make up the Association’s staff, which is split into eight departments:
- The office of the President & CEO, Steve Pasierb.
- Account Executives, which support the meetings and events and membership departments.
- Meetings & Events, which is responsible for producing TIA events, including the North American International Toy Fair (the largest toy and youth entertainment product marketplace in the western hemisphere), Fall Toy Preview (an annual long-lead buying event that highlights products for the following year’s fourth quarter), PlayCon (TIA’s international conference of play professionals) and Play Fair (a new but rapidly expanding business-to-consumer event).
- Membership, which is responsible for acquiring and retaining members as well as engaging members in appropriate TIA activities.
- External Affairs, which is responsible for advocating on behalf of the industry at the federal, state and local levels of government. The team works with policymakers and other key audiences in the U.S. and globally to promote and protect the industry and to provide TIA members with expert guidance on regulatory, technical and safety issues.
- Marketing Communications, which leads “The Genius of Play” initiative to bring more play into kids’ lives; promotes toy safety, member products, and toy trends in front of consumer and trade media; and administers the annual Toy of the Year Awards and Toy Industry Hall of Fame programs.
- Finance & Administration, which includes accounting, technology, human resources and facilities services in support of the entire organization. It runs a credit interchange program that provides educational and networking opportunities for credit, finance and operations professionals in the industry. Additionally, the department conducts market research to help members make informed business decisions.
- The Toy Industry Foundation (TIF), the philanthropic arm of the North American toy industry, which collects toy and game donations from generous toy manufacturers and retailers and distributes them to children in need through its partnerships and programs. More than 4 million deserving children will be served this year alone, thanks to a record-breaking $65 million in donations to TIF’s Toy Bank.
As a service organization that remains dedicated to supporting its members and the broader toy community, TIA is currently undergoing a transformation to meet the evolving needs of the toy industry and the new expectations of the 21st century consumer – while recognizing that the core benefits and types of play remain essential.
As part of a wider rebranding effort to reflect the evolving toy industry, the Association has updated its mission statement and plans to unveil a new logo and office space in the New Year.
Kicking off this transformation, TIA is getting ready to roll out a new strategic plan for 2017-2020, which is comprised of six interlinked goals:
- Focus on core services and long-term transformation
- Strengthen and expand TIA’s global advocacy and market access programs
- Elevate the public image of the toy industry
- Develop organization and industry human leadership
- Ensure financial sustainability
- Improve membership experience
The plan aims to ensure that TIA is a trusted, robust organization that responds to members’ needs and proactively supports their businesses … and continues to demonstrate its leadership across North America and around the world.
Today in America, toy sales are showing robust growth, toy companies are creating innovative products, and a new generation of parents is embracing the essential role of play for their children.
The annual U.S. domestic toy market is currently worth $25 billion: approximately 90% of TIA’s 950+ members currently account for the market. In 2015, U.S. toy sales grew 6.7%, marking one of the strongest years the industry has seen in more than a decade. Analysts predict that 2016 will also end on a high note with robust sales across several toy categories – from games and puzzles to dolls and plush toys.
Over the years, TIA has remained committed to the prosperity of the industry as it has evolved in changing times, from producing a surge of tech-infused toys that build science and math skills, to the resurrection of old classics for a new generation to enjoy. By recognizing and leveraging key platforms, like licensed products, app-based play and content development, the industry has overcome its predicted decline and has instead thrived.
Building on its past successes and looking ahead to the endless possibilities of the future, TIA is prepared to stand by its members every step of the way as they endeavor to touch children’s lives by bringing them happiness and the many developmental benefits of play in the years to come.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: The Toy Industry Association
WHAT: A global trade association
WHERE: Headquarters in New York City, New York