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September 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 9
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Toy Recalls Shake Up Shoppers

Industry Re-examines Standards


“I'm not really very confident that I can find a toy that meets my child's wants and needs and is not made in a foreign country.” Susan Ledford, mother
As the holiday season approaches on the heels of a slew of toy recalls, U.S. consumers have gone on the defensive, and toy manufacturers are proactively seeking to pledge product safety, sources told PlayZak.

AN INTERNATIONAL TOY CRISIS

“I'm concerned that this recall suggests further problems in the toy industry,” said Crystal Summers, a Texas mother of 2- and 3-year-old girls, after Mattel’s second recall, back in August 2007. “It is a warning to U.S. consumers about regulation in overseas manufacturing.”

“China has a black eye now for many different reasons,” Owner Buddy Wood of Le Jouet toy store in Metairie, La., told PlayZak, and the toy recalls are yet “another thing to cause doubt.”

Trying to counter the continuing assault on its national image, Chinese officials have placed at least partial blame for toy recalls on American designers, and have even offered media tours of select toy factories.

TESTING AT HOME

Meanwhile, some U.S. firms have determined they shouldn’t rely solely on testing done by manufacturers. Retailer giants Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart, as well as the Walt Disney Co., which licenses its toys out for production, have recently either increased or added their own toy tests.

Numerous toy companies have responded by assessing their product lines, and many have released statements regarding the production and safety of materials used — emphasizing lines made in Europe and the United States.

Even products produced in the U.S. have undergone scrutiny.

“We have actually gone back through and looked through everything we’ve used and said, ‘Where are we vulnerable?’” Owner Rob Daggett of Smethport Specialty told PlayZak.

But, he reassured, “It’s pretty tough to buy leaded paint in the U.S.”

STANDARDS GET TOUGHER

Strict legislation makes it tough, and some associations are working to make applicable laws even stronger.

In early September, the Toy Industry Association announced plans to help improve toy safety and testing procedures for products sold in the United States by working with the American National Standards Institute and supporting the concept of federally mandating safety testing.

And in Europe, a consumers’ group is calling for tighter enforcement of existing safety standards.

WHAT TO BUY?

With tighter legislation in the balance, though, consumers are still troubled over what to purchase in the here and now.

North Carolina homeschooling mom, Susan Ledford, receives notice of recalls from a government list. She sometimes gets creative when it comes to birthdays for her three children, ages 12, 7 and 1, and may give a week at camp in place of toys, she said.

“But you can’t do that all the time,” she pointed out. “I'm not really very confident that I can find a toy that meets my child's wants and needs and is not made in a foreign country.”

TOY-STORE OWNERS HELP

It can be difficult — and sometimes pricey — to locate preferred labels, but smaller toy stores, particularly specialty outfits committed to customer service, will gladly advise customers as they shop.

“I can recommend toys that have a proven track record, and that’s part of being an independent dealer,” said Gayle Grabish, owner of Unique Toy & Game in Grover, Mo. “We can look at things and say things are quality products: They’ve been manufactured for years — not something that’s brand new and hasn’t been time tested.”

Read more about toy recalls:

Mattel Recalls 9.5 Million More Toys

Is "Made In China" the Kiss of Death?

Toys in the News: 8-30-07



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Julie L. JonesWriter'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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