Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of US The Toy Association speaks to TNP about the team’s efforts, over the past couple of months, to help keep the toy industry functioning amid the global pandemic. He also shares some great advice for these challenging times.
Firstly, how are you and The Toy Association team?
We’re doing well. And, most importantly all are healthy so far. Everyone in our team has been working from home since the middle of March and we’re all enabled with technology to continue our work, so a good rhythm has been established. All departments are meeting frequently each week, our board of directors has held virtual meetings and our board executive committee meets each month. The constant contact with one another is essential for work and our spirits!
How has the team adapted to working amid the outbreak?
Our people have worked hard to make certain we haven’t missed a beat in these quickly changing circumstances and we have swiftly responded to all member company questions and needs. Essentially, the team is doing all the same work of April until June – but now with many new daily tasks and responsibilities.
More than ever, our people are our factory and their actions are our product. Our factory is open, it’s running close to capacity, and our product is moving. We all share a deep belief in our responsibility to protect and promote the broad toy community and leave the association better than we found it.
Over the last few weeks, what is the best advice that you have been given, which you could pass on to the industry?
Breathe! And, find non-stressed time for yourself and those you love. Right now, we are all deeply concerned about the health of those in our lives and the health of our businesses. This combined with instant conference calls, video sessions, and too much email at all hours is collectively far more stressful than the grind of usual office work and business travel. Disconnecting and caring for one’s own mental and physical health is essential if we are to truly care for others and find ways forward for our businesses.
In brief, what has The Toy Association been doing to support the industry during these difficult times?
Our team has been making daily connections with thousands of companies and individuals as we formulate our near- and long-term actions. Recently we hosted the first of a series of a small groups of member companies for virtual Town Hall meetings; we kept the gathering intimate so that everyone would have a chance to speak freely and let us know how we can be of further assistance to their businesses during this crisis.
Since the issue went critical in mid-March here in the US, The Toy Association has been regularly disseminating insightful and actionable information for companies in the way of continually updated Covid-19 business and retailer toolkits, direct email communications, and weekly webinars, in addition to advocating to keep the business of toys functioning for the families we serve. The team is fighting to partially reopen US manufacturers and distributors that can safeguard employees and working to keep the aisles of essential retailers accessible to families seeking toys and learning products.
Our team is also tracking dozens of urgent issues here in the United States and around the world, including onerous new 60-percent tariffs in India on toys made in China, among many more.
We are equally focused on promoting our members’ toys and games while also supporting families who are stuck at home. Our trends spokespeople have been sharing useful at-home learning and play resources via broadcast TV segments (filmed from the safety of their homes) in major US markets, and The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative has launched a Play Today campaign and Worldwide Headquarters of Play national advertising campaign to provide families with the inspiration and tools they need to engage in playful activities at home. We encourage our global toy industry colleagues to share these resources within their own communities to help families cope with the stress of balancing remote work with keeping their kids engaged in academics and fun.
Our support services, resources, and activities are evolving daily as we hear back from companies on how the pandemic is affecting them. This crisis looks very different based on business type, location, and a host of other variables, and we are mindful of that. I do believe that we must all communicate, connect, and collaborate with one another to emerge from this in a position of strength as an industry.