July 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 7
Made in the USA Toys
How Companies Keep Costs Down While Staying Stateside
Given recent concerns over reports of tainted toothpaste, pet food and other imports from China, including some of RC2's Thomas & Friends toys containing lead paint, it's possible that more manufacturers may think twice before jumping at foreign price cuts.
COST-CUTTING CUTS SALES
Michael Rainville, CEO of Maple Landmark Woodcraft in Middlebury, Vt., said “the cost of production in China is easily more than 75 percent less than in the U.S.,” but noted additional fees related to transportation, inventory and more. These are difficult for smaller companies, he said, and contribute to a plan in which “price is the only driver.”
For Rainville, production isn’t about price; rather, it’s about filling a niche for clientele who demand natural products and have concerns about the environment, safety and American jobs. “We would not be in business if we went overseas,” he stated.
CONTROL PAYS OFF
Logistical considerations, such as the ability to run small batches, are one reason Owner Dean Helfer of Channel Craft and Distribution keeps business here.
“[Overseas], we would have a whole lot less control over getting our customers what they need, when they need it,” he said, since shipments from abroad can take months.
President Mark Carson of Fat Brain Toy Co. told TDmonthly that during a tight production schedule to launch Dado Cubes, his company made numerous visits to its nearby mold maker and injection molder — a task that “would be difficult and time consuming to do overseas.”
Smethport Specialty keeps its footing by building its own machinery and by stocking parts, but not finished pieces. "Cash flow is a lot better,” said President Scott Cavagnaro. “Instead of $10 [on the shelf], I might have $2 worth of premade parts without any labor.”
IT’S A TOSS UP
But even those committed to the U.S. can be tempted to stray.
Teacup Tables, looking to partner with a Texas mill to expand its six-person operation, was enticed by overseas price quotes. Nevertheless, Owner Terri Foxworth assured TDmonthly that her company is first concerned with quality, and she doesn’t support labor conditions abroad.
Quality also played into Ttalf Corporation’s decision to manufacture the Yackle Ball at home. “I had a sample sent to me of what China could do, and it fell apart in less than 20 minutes,” CEO Patricia Littwin said. But when the company tested 60 of the USA-made Yackle Balls with 1,150 middle schoolers for two days, they “did not lose one.”
Nevertheless, Littwin admitted that two upcoming products featuring mold-injected foam will be imported because of high prices related to the use of a certain chemical.
Baker Wood Marionettes recently outsourced some Disney-licensed products, but prefers to manufacturer at home, according to Owner Bob Baker, who feels strongly that the United States is “giving everything away to other countries.”
MONEY IN THE BALANCE
But Baker admitted that U.S. production is challenging: "We don't make as much profit as we should, and we have to keep the stuff competitive.”
Pat Secrist of Secrist Doll Company, citing a procedure that describes in detail how to don safety glasses, said an increase in U.S. regulation might cause him to move production. But, the flexibility of his 15 employees — 12 of whom make the dolls — is a plus. “One employee may know literally 10 different jobs,” he said. “And it allows us to pay them more.”
Dimensions holds down costs for its 75-member workforce at a Northern California manufacturing and shipping facility for Perler Beads because “the labor rates…are a little bit lower,” Sales Manager Ann Shade told TDmonthly.
THE HEART OF PRODUCTION
For many companies, manufacturing at home is about giving products a personal touch. The father-son team that makes Rolli-Rider puts “personal love and attention” into the bicycles produced by the hundreds, Owner Noel Eberhardt said.
But it’s not only the owners who feel loyalty to home-based companies. The average tenure at Maple Landmark Woodcraft is more than 10 years, and some of the 35 skilled craftsmen and women at Channel Craft have been there for 15.
A few retailers have pledged their allegiance, too, telling Owner Bruce Wettland of Uncle’s Puzzles that the “Made in the USA” label on his red, white and blue gift boxes should be bigger.
See U.S. products from these and other companies below:
Our hand-painted Jungle Table Set includes one palm tree-shaped table and two coconut-shaped stools. Extra stools are available. The surface is easily cleaned with a damp cloth. A small amount of assembly is necessary. The table measures 28"W X 23"H and the stools measure 12"W X 12"H. Made in the USA.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9486 (added 9/25/2006)
These high-end dress-up designs are durable, modest and made with play in mind. Cordelia's costumes are perfect for toy stores, tea shops, dance companies and photographers. The quality is such that they can also be worn as flower girl and pageant dresses. “The number one thing that sets us apart is our phenomenal quality. These dress-up clothes are built to survive enthusiastic play!” Owner Rebecca Blake told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11978 (added 3/19/2007)
Roy Toy Log Cabin Playset by CHANNEL CRAFT & DISTRIBUTION INC.
Other products from CHANNEL CRAFT & DISTRIBUTION INC.
Made in the USA since 1930, the Roy Toy Playsets are made of real wood and are one of the most versatile building sets around. The 16-1/2” canister comes with 140 pieces that include solid pine logs, green roof planks and red gables. The hallmark American invention provides for a simpler and tighter interlocking fit to make buildings more sound and realistic. The set helps promote planning, logical thinking, creativity and self-confidence.
— Tom England, owner of Dancing Bear Toys & Gifts in Frederick, Md., cited the "Roy Toy Cabin set" as a construction toy top-seller in his store.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12686 (added 5/7/2007)
Tall Stacker Pegs Building Set by LAURI, a division of PATCH PRODUCTS INC.
Other products from LAURI, a division of PATCH PRODUCTS INC.
Winner of a Parents’ Choice Award, this three dimensional stacking set teaches children to think ahead as they plan where they will set the next peg to build the next platform. Kids will not only learn about shape, size and color relationships during the building process, but they will also hone their motor and math skills. The set includes 100 Tall Stacker Pegs, a 1,100-hole peg board and 17 Crepe Rubber Shapes all packaged in a quality storage box that comes with a handle for easy transport. Launch date: April 2006.
— This item is a best seller at Juggles in Wakefield, R.I., according to Owner Idanna Smith.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12845 (added 5/15/2007)
Taffy is a cute little preemie baby, and is just 17” long. She is one of the newest kits from the Secrist Dolls Reborn line. She comes as a blank, unfinished doll kit ready for a reborn artist to bring to life. Secrist also offers reborning supplies and an instructional DVD so that newcomers can learn to make their own lifelike newborns. Launch date: 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9959 (added 11/8/2006)
This trial kit includes 225 brightly colored beads and one pegboard to make a colorful puppy pal. “Priced right at $1.99 retail, these Trial Kits [eight different styles] are a perfect way to introduce kids to Perler Beads and its boundless creativity,” Sales Manager Ann Shade of Perler Beads told TDmonthly. Launch date: March 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12215 (added 4/6/2007)
Gretel may have lost her way in the forest, but with a little help from a little kid, she’ll be able to wander back to safety. She’s dressed in a felt Tyrolean outfit and is handcrafted of wood.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9924 (added 11/3/2006)
Official Toobee Air Force Membership Kit by TOOBEE INTERNATIONAL INC.
Other products from TOOBEE INTERNATIONAL INC.
Now, you can give the gift of membership to the Toobee fan in your life. Toobee The Amazing Flying Can is safe fun for all ages and can be played indoors and out. The kit includes a membership card, a membership certificate, three Toobees with a carrying case and a T-shirt. The membership kit also includes free shipping, and like all other Toobee products, includes 100 percent of profits donated to a children's charity, Cannedwater4kids. Launch date: November 22, 2005.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 10865 (added 1/3/2007)
Not for the patience impaired, this is one of the more difficult puzzles to solve. The puzzles are hand made from 1/4" (some connecting pieces are 3/16") high-quality steel that is capable of withstanding all usual and common proper hand manipulation, as well as "creative" attempts to make the solution easier. Each Uncles Puzzle is shipped in an attractive three-color gift box with the solution. Launch date: May 1997.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12025 (added 3/21/2007)
With over 50 tattoos per pack and 24 packs per box, there is enough sparkle to capture the attention of any tween girl. Each pack includes one tattoo collector's card.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11447 (added 2/16/2007)
Each Play Clay Cup contains approximately 7 oz. of fruity-scented clay. Colors and scents available are red/Cherry Berry, green/Sour Green Apple, yellow/Pineapple Punch, orange/Orange Sherbet, sky blue/Blueberry Blast, purple/Grape Bubblegum and pink/Pink Lemonade. Made from all organic ingredients. Launch date: 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12787 (added 5/15/2007)
The gritty realism of Pizza Box Football is driven by the power of the numbers behind the game. Players pick one of three plays: run, short pass or long pass. Pizza Box Football is shaped like a pizza box... and it opens up into a head-to-head football strategy game designed to offer all the intensity of real football in every play. Players unfold the game board (the field) and lay it inside the unfolded pizza box. The cards guide the players as they play and show the players which dice to roll. Players must apply football strategy in order to win — when to run, when to short pass, when to long pass and when to try to fool the other team.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11351 (added 2/6/2007)
This is a must-have accessory for water balloons. This product is for use in areas lacking sufficient water pressure to expand and fill balloons. This product is made by the handicapped in sheltered workshops in America. Complete satisfaction is guaranteed by The Fun Company's $2,000,000 product liability policy with Hartford Insurance to protect distributors and retailers.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6075 (added 12/20/2005)
The Blues are the first addition to the award-winning Dado Cubes line. Dado Cubes combine art and science as players explore architectural principles — proportion, balance, structure and color. A new twist on classic building blocks, Dado Cubes engage the imagination as the slits on each cube are interlocked to create an unlimited number of three-dimensional structures. Each set features 10 cubes, scaled from 1” to 5”, capable of building structures over 32” high. They are made of durable, heavy-gauge plastic and were developed, manufactured and assembled in the U.S.A. Dado Cubes have been honored with numerous awards, including Dr. Toy's Spring 2007 Best Product Award and a Spring 2007 National Parenting Center Seal of Approval. Launch date: May 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13304 (added 6/7/2007)
This X-shaped ball flies farther than a football but it’s soft so it won't hurt the kid catching it. The Yackle Ball comes with many fun and stimulating games to encourage outdoor play. It is available in 10 colors. CEO Patricia Littwin of Ttalf Corporation chose to manufacturer the original Yackle in the United States, and automation within a 10,000 sq. ft. North Carolinian facility allows production at only 10 cents more per ball than was quoted in China, she said. “We like the Yackle Balls by Ttalf,” Owner Linda Angel of Kidoodles Toys in Norman, Okla., told TDmonthly upon her return from Toy Fair 2007. Awards: TDmonthly Innovations 2007. Launch date: June 1, 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 11076 (added 1/11/2007)
Easy2Draw Dolphins & Reef Animals with Cordi by ARTRAGOUS DESIGNS
Other products from ARTRAGOUS DESIGNS
In this upbeat three-phase DVD, instructor Cordi uses a positive approach to teach children how to draw ocean animals, while expressing a deep love and respect for the sea and its inhabitants. The program offers nearly two hours of lessons on sea life, assuring students along the way that they will improve, step by step, as they practice. A percentage of profits benefits Dolphin Rescue. “This small company specializes in teaching traditional methods of drawing through using subjects that kids are crazy about,” Cordi Bradburn told TDmonthly. Launch date: February 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13603 (added 6/25/2007)
Big Sunday Strategy Football Board Game by THE RANDOLPH ROSE GROUP
Other products from THE RANDOLPH ROSE GROUP
This game is perfect for kids and adults curious to learn the intricate rules of football. During game play, the defense reveals its play while the other team rolls the dice. The outcome of the play is revealed and yards are gained or lost. It teaches players about the two-minute warning, fumbles, interceptions, penalties, kicking game, passing game and running game. Here is what Mike White, Superbowl winning coach had to say about Big Sunday. "In our mechanized world, Big Sunday is a throwback to the family oriented activity around the dinner table. It can be played by all ages and will match all types of skill levels. In my opinion it is the closest thing to real football. It has all the strategy and flow of an actual game. Players are involved in play selection, defensive deployment, down and distance, and all varieties of scoring combinations.It also includes fumbles, penalties, use of clock and time outs, a complete kicking game and the exciting 2-minute warning."
— As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.2 out of 5 stars from 6 reviews on Amazon.com. Cons: The pieces are very small and the lines on the "field" game board were hard to see; rules were confusing.
Past Videos: Pomona 2006
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7172 (added 3/9/2006)
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By design, Toobee is a cylindrical wing or annular airfoil. The Toobee pilot simply grips the can like a football and throws it, rounded edge forward, like an NFL long bomb. When thrown properly, Toobee will sail, soar, swoop and curve floating on air for distances almost the length of the football field. The patented high-tech aluminum airfoil is only .005 inches thick and weighs less than a marshmallow (3 grams). Its extreme lightness and specially rolled edges, make Toobee a toy that can be flown safely indoors or out. It can be tossed for distance, accuracy, fun or competition. Toobee "helps children stay healthy while having fun," Gregory Stromberg, CEO of Toobee International Inc., told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5664 (added 11/22/2005)
Made-by-Me Gift Set by MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.
Other products from MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.
Best known for the NameTrains and Montgomery Schoolhouse products, Maple Landmark branched out into construction kits for kids. Using “My Little Scoots!”-sized bodies, they’ve created “Made by Me” kits in four different vehicle styles — truck, train, tractor and tugboat. The vehicle bodies are 4” long, crafted from pine, and sanded smooth to the touch. The boxed kit includes the vehicle bodies, plus a smokestack for the train, 16 axles, 16 wheels and instructions. Single kits are also available.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7516 (added 4/12/2006)
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Writer's Bio: Julie L. Jones has written articles for both newspapers and magazines. Before joining the staff of TDmonthly Magazine, she worked as a communications writer and provided editorial support for a market research company. Read more articles by this author
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