Resale shops shift focus after raft of toy recalls
Federal regulators have ordered nine safety-related, nationwide recalls of toys and other products for children in December alone, including products ranging from plastic snap beads to cribs.
It’s a trend longtime resale shop owner Kitty Boyce of Rochester decided was best to avoid altogether.
After 18 years of selling mostly children’s clothing, toys and baby equipment as The Kids Closet, Boyce decided it was time to stop selling the products. Period. She changed the name of her shop to Remarkable Resale and shifted the focus to clothing for women and youth, home accessories and furniture.
“It’s just not worth the hazard,” said Boyce, who recently was elected to a four-year term as president of the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops. The Michigan-based association represents 1,000 members nationwide.
An October update
Area resale and consignment shop owners met in October with a representative of the Consumer Product Safety Commission office from Chicago for an update on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
Former President Bush signed the stricter safeguards for children’s products into law after a series of high-profile recalls in 2007 of products containing excessive levels of lead in paint. Many of the products had been manufactured in China.
The meeting in Rochester was one of a series sponsored by CPSC around the country to explain implementation of the law.
“We just decided to get rid of all the toys and furniture. They basically told them (owners) nothing was that safe to sell,” Boyce said.
She said she returned children’s clothing, furniture and baby equipment accepted on consignment to the owners or sent the items to the Dumpster. Boyce said she would sell a limited number of remaining toys for the holidays.
A buzz on the Internet
Consignment and resale shops ramped up quickly with e-mails, blogs and electronic newsletters early this year when word began circulating that new CPSC regulations effective in February would require testing of individual toys, pieces of furniture for children and other merchandise for excessive levels of lead.
A letter-writing campaign also was started to members of Congress warning the rules would drive hundreds of family-owned shops out of business. The CPSC issued a “clarification” just prior to implementation that shops were not required to conduct tests, but that they were responsible for keeping such products off the shelves.
All About Kids owner Linda Fenski said she decided to continue selling toys at her Springfield shop — within limits.
“There are just certain toys you have to watch for. We’re just avoiding the toys on recall lists,” Fenski said.
“There are items like metal jewelry, magnets and painted toys that we don’t want that are more of a hazard,” added Fensi, who has been in business for two years.
Another of the area’s older resale shops, Just Kids in Sherman, also decided to change business models as a result of the tougher federal rules by dropping children’s toys and equipment.
“Now, I’m full with clothing, shoes and books (for children),” said owner Cindy Naslund, who has been in business 13 years.
“It wasn’t worth the chance of something happening, of me getting fined or possibly even going to jail,” said Naslund, who operated a shop in Springfield for three years before closing it in February.
Revenues fell off about 20 percent at Goodwill stores after the stricter rules took effect, said Sharon Durbin, CEO of Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries Inc. The organization has three stores in Springfield, as well as locations in Chatham, Jacksonville, Champaign and Bloomington.
Durbin said sales since have rebounded.
“It was such a big item, but consumers are getting use to what we can and cannot sell,” said Durbin, who noted that the rules also restricted donations that can be accepted.
“There are a lot of items that we have to pull that we don’t sell anymore,” Durbin said. “If it’s items we know we cannot sell, and the customers hands us that toy, we tell them we can’t sell it. If it’s clothing items, we have another resource to get rid of them.”
No more rules changes
At least not for now, Boyce said. But she pointed out there have been a series of safety-related recalls for children’s products this fall.
The shift away from toys and furniture has taken place at shops nationwide based on anecdotal reports to the national association, though some shops have elected to stay with what traditionally was one of the most popular products.
“One of our members in Kansas City takes toys and books, but checks everyone on the Internet first,” Boyce said.
She added that it took time to make the transition from predominately a children’s store to a new demographic. It’s also been an adjustment for customers, Boyce said.
“When you look at all the recalls this fall, it’s not worth the risk,” she said.
Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536 email@example.com.
Safety commission’s December recalls
* Little Miss Matched girls pajama sets; failed to meet flammability standards; Little Miss Match Inc.; 7,000 in the United States and 288 in Canada
* Super Rigs Play Sets; excessive lead levels; Variety Wholesalers Inc.; 700
* Monday the Bullfrog, plush book; choking hazard; Simon & Schuster; 142,000
* ExerSaucer 1-2-3 Tea for Me; choking hazard; Evenflo Co.; 66,000 in the United States and Canada
* Amby Baby Motion Beds; suffocation hazards; Amby Baby USA; 24,000
* Snap Beads; choking hazard; Edushape Ltd.; 40
* Hello Kitty hoodie sweatshirts; strangulation hazard; NTD Apparel; 1,200
* Children’s Hooded Sweatshirts; strangulation hazard; Susations Inc.; 12,000
* “Molly” and “Betsy” Cribs; strangulation hazard; LaJobi Inc.; 400
Highlights of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008
Took effect February 2009
* Applies to products for children 12 and younger.
* Set stricter limits on lead content in children’s products. Limits reviewed and revised downward every five years.
* New limits on “phthalates,” a product used to make plastics softer. Applied to toys and children’s apparel.
Want more information?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recall hot line is (800) 638-2772; recall information also is available at www.cpsc.gov.