Exclusive: Letter from America reviews 2023

Published on: 12th January 2024

Rick Derr, who owns the Learning Express Toys franchise in Chicago, shares with Toy World how 2023 came to a close for US indie retail as well as his own personal highlights.

2023 was not the most prosperous year for the USA indie toy market, explains Rick: “While the first 10 days of December started off with promise – and sales roughly on a par with a year ago – we then experienced a marked drop in footfall and dollars spent. As someone who’s been a retailer for the past 28 Christmases, this year ranked near the bottom in terms of excitement, both from a product perspective as well as from a human perspective.”

The month of December ended up with a decline in dollar sales year over year and there was also a decline for the whole year. However, 2022 was in the top four sales years of all time so a decline in 2023 may only signify things going back to normal rather than a dangerous slope.

As for Rick’s personal achievements in the past year, these included attending the Toymaster May show in Harrogate where he found his No. 1 seller, and increasing the trialling of new concepts and products in store. In the past few Letters from America, Rick had been telling us about his journey to join the MESH (Mental Emotional Social Health) advisory board, as well as becoming a Certified Expert in Play. Following his achievements, he has been given opportunities to speak at important events, was nominated for a Tagie Award and was also awarded a President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service working with Kidz Korna in the city of Chicago.

To read Rick’s expectations and hopes for the year ahead, click here for the full column, which appeared in the January edition of Toy World.


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