Specialty Toy Industry Trends
Specialty Toy Manufacturers Discuss Recalls, Toy SafetySeptember/October 2007
by Tina Manzer
An e-mail that edplay magazine recently sent to specialty toy manufacturers asked, “How do the recalls impact the specialty toy industry?, “How do you know your toys are safe?” and “What should retailers tell their customers to assure them that they’re buying safe products?” Manufacturers – over 70 of them, generating 50 pages of text – responded with insightful comments, good advice and their corporate safety policies. While all the responses are featured on our website, we thought you’d find suggestions on what to tell your customers most helpful. Here are just a few. Visit edplay.com to find out manufacturers’ safety procedures and to read the responses in their entirety.
David Gordon, Play Smart
“Retailers should assure their customers that reputable toy companies put a great effort into assuring that the toys they manufacture are safe. The recent incidents are isolated and were either the fault of unscrupulous factories or unscrupulous suppliers to the factories. Rest assured that manufacturers are much more vigilant since these incidents, as well as the governments of countries that manufacture the toys. Also, the voluntary recalls and the speed and openness in which they were done should give further comfort to the consumer.”
From Jamie Seeley Kreisman, BEKA
“I don’t think the specialty side will be directly impacted, but it may be affected if there is an overall loss of confidence in toy safety. If that happens, consumers may simply choose alternatives to toys when buying gifts, etc., hurting the overall market for toys.
“We have received more inquires than usual for this time of year from retailers sourcing domestic products. We have also heard from established dealers who simply want confirmation of the safety of our products. At this point in time, any impact on sales levels is conjecture.
“We manufacture our wood products ourselves, so there are no middlemen to wonder about, no contractors or subcontractors. We review documents that assure us of the safety and integrity of our raw materials, then we perform our own work on that material.
“Retailers should confirm safety information with their vendors, and then pass those assurances along.”
From Renee Whitney, Be Amazing Toys
“If I were a retailer, I would ask for either a letter from my manufacturers stating their policy on safety – some kind of certification that they have run the appropriate tests, or a copy of testing reports on the items I buy from them, or both.”
From Brian Turtle, Endless Games
“Retailers should emphasize the fact that the recall, though scary, only affected a small portion of the overall toy market. They should also alert customers that in the wake of such a crisis, everyone from the inventors to the manufacturers to the retailers (and everyone else in between) is taking new measures to assure product safety.”
From Sarah Itzhaki, Toys’Ntayls
“First of all, it is important to state that these recalls are the initiative of the manufacturers, thus not compromising their reliability. They have taken responsibility and acted in due course. However, I believe that the recalls have less effect on the specialty toy industry because manufacturers in this industry may be utilizing high standards … retailers should be assured by their toy manufacturers that their products are safe, complying with ASTM as shown on a test certificate. In addition, the safety seal should be labeled on the toy, along with any age-appropriate warnings.”
From Beverly Johnson, Fractiles
“It is unfortunate that the increased interest in USA-made products is primarily fear driven. However, I am hopeful that many people will now reflect on the bigger picture. They will be interested in knowing more about “the high cost of low price” e.g. the lost American jobs, the labor conditions in China and the environmental factors. I believe this time holds a unique opportunity for retailers and specialty toy manufacturers to help American consumers to take a deeper look at what they are willing to buy.”
From Christy Kaskey, Kaskey Kids Inc.
“I believe that if customers have a concern, then they need to contact the manufacturers themselves by phone or e-mail. There is no way that retailers can guarantee the safety of all of the toys they are selling in their stores.”
From Anna Johnson, SmartLab Toys
“Retailers can only communicate what they know from the manufacturers about their safety testing protocol and processes. Our company is drafting a safety statement to post on our website and to communicate with retailers to make it easier for them to recommend our toys with confidence.”
From Derek Cabrera, ThinkWorks
“First, retailers and customers should know that the recent Mattel recall was a manipulation of the news reports to make China look bad. Mattel was put in a positive light. Most of the recall involved design issues such as inserted magnets that can fall out of the toy and be swallowed. This is the fault of Mattel designers, not the Chinese manufacturer who simply did what the designers asked him to do. The lead paint issue was, in fact, the fault of the manufacturer in China, but the recall involved far more magnetic toys than lead paint toys. Secondly, retailers and customers should know that 85 percent of all toys are made in China, so that when they hear that the majority of recalls are for toys made in China, it should not be a surprise.”
From Zev Shlasinger, Z-Man Games Inc.
“Retailers should tell their customers that the system works – the recalls prove this, and the level of inspections gets higher all the time.”