"I used to quote that 85 percent of all toys in the United States were made overseas. That percentage was even higher, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. It was in the mid to high 90s. And that's something that keeps people at American Plastic Toys engaged. They realize they are doing something kind of special. The new generation of employees want to do something special," he said.
Gessert calls American Plastic Toys a midsize company. He points to his experience as the chairman of the Toy Industry Association that shows this range of business is a dying breed in the toy industry.
"There's a few big ones, a ton of small ones, but that middle section is almost nonexistent," he said.
Gessert said that American Plastic Toys is growing and that 2016 was a good year for the toy industry overall.
"Last year, the toy industry had its best year of growth for the last five years. About 4.5 percent increase, which is good because it's a mature industry. We're going through the same transition like everyone else in retail — the conversion from bricks and mortar to online sales. Our stuff is big and bulky. We never thought it would be as good a fit as it's turned out to be."
American Plastic Toys donated its 1 millionth free toy destined for needy kids during the holiday season this year through a partnership with the Society of Plastics Engineers, a resin supplier, label maker and a trucking company.
"Everybody has a part in it and little programs like that start to add up," Gessert said.
American Plastic Toys used to exclusively purchase Van Dorn injection molding machines. Gessert said when Van Dorn went away — the brand is now part of Sumitomo (SHI) Demag — choosing his next primary supplier kept him up at night. They tested three machine brands and landed on Nissei and Milacron.
With that issue now settled, resin is his main concern.
"The fall toy preview is typically the first weekend in October. And that's when we present our Christmas line for the following Christmas. So, the fall toy preview in 2017 will be the fall toy introduction for 2018. So we're 14 months out. … If you want to see a plastic producer or a plastics sales person or wholesaler's head explode, say to them: 'Tell me what you think plastics [prices] is going to be in 12 months.'
"But that's what keeps me up at night. I don't begrudge the plastics companies to make money on their product. But the volatility that we've had. And I'm really fortunate. I've got some phenomenal suppliers that we work with for plastics," he said.