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January 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 1


Conversations With Keithley

Toy Fair Outlook is Strong as Safety Laws Hang in the Balance

“Many of the tests that are being done these days with off-the-shelf lead-testing kits are simply not accurate.” TIA President Carter Keithley
Toy Fair is just around the corner, as is a new program for product testing standards and — sooner or later — legislation granting CPSC reform. In mid-December, Toy Industry Association President Carter Keithley shared with TDmonthly Magazine his thoughts on these topics:

What trends is TIA expecting at Toy Fair this year?

I think we will continue to see an increasing amount of toys related to licensed characters coming out of movies and TV shows. There continues to be increased growth in toy sales from those kinds of toys. In addition, I think we'll see more toys related to music, and I think we'll continue to see the use of electronics and technology in more traditional toys — things to enhance the play experience.

When I spoke with Marian Bossard in November, she said Toy Fair registration numbers were way up for that time of year. Are they staying consistent?

They haven't remained 50 percent [more than last year], but they do remain very high, and so we're quite enthusiastic. They're running at about 20 percent ahead of last year, so we think we'll have a very healthy show.

What steps should companies take when attending Toy Fair for the first time?

They should take advantage of opportunities to increase their visibility through sponsorships available at the show. Oftentimes if they're a new exhibitor … they'll be a little less visible, and so [they should take advantage of] investing a little more by sponsoring ads in the show directory or other visibility opportunities.

Various organizations and websites are revealing lead test results and offering advice on safe toys. What should parents trust?

Consumers need to put their trust in the Consumer Product Safety Commission recall system. Many of the tests that are being done these days with off-the-shelf lead-testing kits are simply not accurate, and they're producing false positives in some cases. Recent reports coming out of non-governmental organizations about lead content turned out to be false, and news media ultimately wound up canceling any stories that they were going to do on them because they were not able to replicate the tests to demonstrate that there was lead in the toy. The list of toys turned out simply to be not accurate.

Can you provide an update on the TIA's involvement with the American National Standards Institute and the progress of the conformity assessment program?

Yes, it is progressing at an extremely fast pace. We still anticipate having ANSI publishing at the end of the year a draft … for evaluation and comment by the general public and by stakeholders. We think that in the beginning of the new year we will begin to work on developing a plan for implementing the program.

How will this influence pending legislation, and what bill does the TIA support?

We gave a briefing to the Consumer Product Safety Commission this past Tuesday [Dec. 11] about the progress on the program, and we were very pleased that the chairman of the commission and the commission staff commended our industry for our progress. We think that will provide sufficient confidence for the legislation to enable the CPSC to delegate the implementation of safety assurances to the ANSI program. We've been working closely with the members of Congress on the content of the bills, and we think the House bill, H.R. 4040, is very close to being what we think is appropriate to assure toy safety.

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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