Auf Wiedersehen Selecta ( … Good-Bye Hand-Crafted Toys?)

By , December 9, 2008 9:34 pm

Are bootleg toys in your future? Don’t laugh. Read on…

It was a sad moment yesterday when I learned via an email from Quiet Hours Toys (a favorite Unplugged Toystore) that one of my very favorite toy manufacturers, German company Selecta, will be leaving the U.S. market as of December 31, 2008.

The new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, passed in August 2008, prohibits phthalates and lead in toys sold in the U.S., mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys, and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

Sounds great, especially the lead and phthalate part, but there are a few unintended consequences of this broadly-painted solution:

– A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
– A work-at-home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craft fairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
– A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
– And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

–  Handmade Toy Alliance

Selecta is the first quality-toy casualty of the new law. Selecta has decided to withdraw from the U.S. market. It’s toys comply with European EN71 and ASTM standards, but meeting the new CPSIA standards would require a cost increase of at least 50%, thus pricing the toys out of the market:

Among the higher costs Selecta said were associated with meeting the CPSIA’s new guidelines were those related to testing procedures for products shipped to the U.S. that are “different than the testing procedures required for the rest of the world, resulting in separate testing for each product destined for the USA”; new shipment labeling regulations that “significantly increases the labor associated with shipping”; and product liability insurance increases “due to changing regulations and their varied interpretations.

Selecta Exits U.S. Market Over Cost Concerns – Toy industry news: playthings.com

I leave you with an interesting summary of the situation from the email I received:

What this means is small, innovative companies that typically make niche products, will be forced out of business, or forced to narrow their product range and sell to the mass market.  Product availability and selection will diminish.  We will be primarily left with imported plastic toys from China.  Yes, quite ironic isn’t it.

Yes, it is ironic.

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What can you do?  The Handmade Toy Alliance offers some useful suggestions and contact links:

Please write to your United States Congress Person and Senator to request changes in the CPSIA to save handmade toys.  Use our sample letter or write your own.  You can find your Congress Person here and Senator here.

Also (from the email):

URGENT Action:
The Subcommitte that put this law together is meeting to review its implementation on Wednesday.  We need to send a message to them to revise the law or its implementation in ways that will maintain the integrity of the safety standards, but will not decimate the children’s natural products market.  Here are the details of the meeting:

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing on Wednesday, December 10, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.  The hearing is entitled “Implementation of the CPSIA:  Urgent Questions about Application Dates, Testing and Certification, and Protecting Children.”  This is an oversight hearing examining implementation of Public Law 110-314 (H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)).  Witnesses will be by invitation only.
The staff briefing for this hearing will be held on Monday, December 8, 2008, at 4:00 p.m. in room 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.

Here is a link to the list of Committee Members.  Please contact your Representative of Congress. If any one of these Representatives on the Subcommittee is YOUR representative, PLEASE be sure to call & email them to voice your concerns about the provisions in the law as they affect you and the children’s products industry in general.  Please do this as soon as you are able.

Here is a link to some suggestions for talking to our representatives from WAHM Solutions.

What else can you do?  Pass this on in your e-newsletters, in your stores, among your friends.  There is much disinformation in the market, and it is up to us to warn consumers and colleagues of the pending disappearance of the natural & specialty toys we have come to rely on in the recent years.

This is a critical time to raise our voices and be heard.  Important issues that affect us will be discussed in a public way next week…NOT after Christmas.

What else can you do?  Join the Handmade Toy Alliance, join the online community cpsia-central and become informed & involved.  Contact the media, discuss this in forums and in your own online communities.  It isn’t just small businesses that are at risk, it is the very nature of the toys & products our children & grandchildren will have access to in the future.

I really dislike alarmist statements, but it does seem that a revision of the new CPSIA regulation is essential otherwise there will be no more Unplugged Toystores, no more Etsy toy shops, no more lovely, unique, and creative toys.  Made in China plastic junk might well become the only choice here in the United States.

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More information:

From the CPSC – Information on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Text of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (H.R. 4040)

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12 Responses to “Auf Wiedersehen Selecta ( … Good-Bye Hand-Crafted Toys?)”

  1. Louisa says:

    Oh my g*d…this makes me feel ill. You know how sick, and I quote my kids, and tired we are of “made in china pieces of crap” that are everywhere….that don’t work, fall apart and poison us…..chinese toys are the guilty ones and they are the ones that will get thru…..ARGH!!!!

  2. Lorna says:

    I really can’t understand this. Toy manufacturers need to meet incredibly strict standards in Europe and Selecta will have already paid out for thorough checks and paper work. Common sense has gone out of the window. I suspect it is a bit of market protectionism.

    Lornas last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – Winter Wonderland in Richmond Park, London

  3. KateinNJ says:

    I have just written to my Congressman, and Senators, and
    I have signed the petition as well.Thanks for the heads up!
    Irony just doesn’t begin to cover it. Oy!

    KateinNJs last blog post..So many books, so little time

  4. […] Unplugged provides the low-down on Consumer Produce Safety Improvement legislation that looks solid on the outside, but at the core, is just cheap […]

  5. Wow! Thanks so much for this informative post. I’ve signed the petition and blogged about it in hopes that others will join the fight.

    Jumbleberry Jams last blog post..Healthy Toys

  6. Our house loves Selecta toys – twice as much as HABA. They are worth every extra dollar, and as equally beautiful as they are durable and creative. They were already hard to find before this news. Ugh.

    Mama Knucker Hatchs last blog post..The Elfin Times

  7. erica says:

    I have only read a little on this and it’s so saddening.

    ericas last blog post..Unplug Your Kids : Fluffy

  8. […] I mentioned in a previous post, German toy company Selecta is the first casualty of the overly broad new Consumer Product Safety […]

  9. […] Originally Posted by Dannielle I bet with some of the European companies it’s the "third party lab" stipulation. I would imagine large companies like that, who already have strict rules, likely do in house testing.

  10. […] you want to, you can read more about this issue in these posts of mine: Auf Wiedersehen Selecta (…Good-Bye Hand-Crafted Toys?) Our Last Selecta […]

  11. Stephanie J. says:

    This doesn’t only sadden me, it ANGERS me!!! I love Selecta toys. The quality is high and the price, affordable.

  12. […] much publicized financial woes, which resulted in a $45 billion government bailout, also mean the end of its beloved holiday train show. The beleagured company is withdrawing sponsorship of the display after this season ends, so if […]

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