Saturday, November 24, 2007

Toys Not Made in China, Making Finding Them Easier

The Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide is a toddler mom's toy fantasy land. It boasts the best finds of the season for moms who are fed up with toy recalls. Sellers offer gifts in almost every price range, from the $6 set of four colorful German-made balls at Oompa Toys to the $249 rocking dory hand-crafted by artisanal Maine wood-workers at Nova Naturals Toys and Crafts.

While major retailers are slower to respond to demand for toys not made in China, some toys made in the USA and in Germany can be found on the web sites of FAO Schwarz, Target and Toys R Us. These retailers don't make it easy though. Searching the sites is time consuming and often fruitless. Many, if not most, of the toys offered are made in China and, particularly in the case of Target and Toys R Us, often little or no manufacturing information is offered. (We found even if we called customer service to ask where a particular product was made, a Kiddi-O Tricycle by Kettler, neither Target nor Toys R Us could tell us. They suggested calling a local store, not exactly an efficient use of time.)

Even "The FAO Schwarz Toy Buying Guide," includes a statement from CEO Ed Schmults saying, "All toys sold in the US must meet certain US government safety standards concerning safety (choking hazards, toxic substances, etc.). However, the recent recalls suggest that it is possible for harmful substances to make it into toys." Perhaps an understatement?

Schmults also says, "There are many quality-oriented factories in China that don’t cut corners, but if you are uncomfortable with China production, then seek out alternative toys made with quality design and quality raw materials." While Scmults acknowledges that some people may be uncomfortable with China production, to continue defending Chinese manufacturers seems almost counterproductive. At this point, parents are more concerned with finding alternatives to toys made in China than trying to find a quality-oriented factory in China that can be trusted with the health of their children.

Schmults does go on to offer some helpful advice about selecting quality toys in general saying, "Look at how the product was designed : Does every part have a purpose? Toys with excessive moving parts can be prone to breakage and factories may use cheaper materials to reduce the cost of manufacturing a complex item." Notably, FAO Schwarz does stay ahead of Target, Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us by offering the capability to search for toys by country of origin. Then again, based on price and reputation, it seems FAO Schwarz should be offering more non-China products than they are.

All-in-all, mainstream American retailers are still missing the mark in responding to the recent toy recalls, leading former customers to smart solutions like The Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide and new relationships with the toy sellers found there.


modmom said...

great post!
happy thanksgiving shannon :)

stephen said...

I can't believe the lack of manufacturer attention to this, especially from those that don't make goods in China. If my stuff was made elsewhere I'd post that fact all over my web site and advertising. If I was a retailer, I'd have signs pointing out every toy not made in china as well. Of course, those toys would fly off the shelves.

It's hard to find sites that help you find non-chinese toys, and a lot of the sites that do focus mainly on wooden toys. I found a couple sites that help find mainstream toys that my kids actually ask for. I've found a lot at and FAO Shwartz. FAO has a country search, but who can afford $300 for a stuffed bear?

Shannon said...

Thanks. Yes, this year is proving especially challenging.