It has been an interesting and eventful week. We exhibited at the New York International Gift Fair. We were pleased to see the wonderful response to our products. We were able to meet many customers in person that we previously only knew as a voice on the telephone, or as a name at the bottom of an email.
It was also very interesting to be at this trade show amid the tumult in the toy industry due to the massive recalls of products made in China. Over and over again, we heard the question: where is this made? Is this made in China? etc. So we definitely heard the concern of millions of Americans regarding the safety of their toys through the mouths of store owners. While we are pleased to offer many products that are made in other countries, we do believe that China can produce toys that have value and are safe. In the coming days we will be posting more information about the steps that each of our fabulous manufacturers take to ensure the highest quality toys--regardless of the country of their origin.
Many Americans seem to be surprised that 80% of our nation's toys are being manufactured in China. Since the inception of our company, we have felt that quality toys (in design and manufacturing) does not come from the "lowest bidder." In the early years we watched as toy buyers passed on our beautiful toys because the prices were "too high" (translation--not Made in China). As the years have passed some of our suppliers have been forced to follow others to China. So now we have exchanges with buyers such as this one that took place at the NY Gift Fair:
A store owner asked where some of our toys were made. I responded that those particular toys are made in China. They indicated that they could no longer buy toys made in China. I then showed them other toys that were made in Europe. They told me the product was wonderful but too expensive.
In the past 10 years that we have been visiting the Nurnberg Toy Fair, we have increasingly heard of the pressures that manufacturers have to move production to China. This company is moving part of their production there, that company is purchasing components from China, this company is going out of business because they didn't move...etc. One manufacturer of soft toys (that still produces in Europe) has complained that the massive shift of the textile industry from Europe to China has made sewing a "lost art" in much of Europe. For them, it is a matter of qualified workers that is pushing them east...so far they have been able to dig in their heels and resist the move.
For various (non-safety) reasons we have typically represented companies that do not have their
products made in China. Over time we have had to be flexible with the criteria that we
use in determining the companies we represent, and where their products
come from. We
do not (and simply cannot) base our decision on what products to carry solely based on
their country of origin. As mentioned earlier, we are also very
interested in the toy's aesthetic value, play value, and the overall
philosophy of toy design that went into developing the toy by the
company we represent. We feel strongly that each company we represent is committed to these elements and we are proud to include their products alongside our other products which are produced elsewhere.
In all situations we are very careful to ensure that the working conditions meet international standards. We are also encouraging all of our suppliers to become members of ICTI, which ensures the working standards of the workers. Additionally, each product meets strict safety standards. In light of the recent recalls we are working with each supplier to take additional steps to guarantee that all each product that is shipped to us is free of lead, toxins, and other safety hazards that are not acceptable.
For your information, here is a breakdown of where most of our products are manufactured (not all of these lines are in our wholesale program):
Challenge & Fun (Balance Boards): USA
Chelona: Greece & China (most of their production is shifting to China, but some existing stock was made in Greece---please check packaging or confirm with store). Additional note: The owner of Chelona has actually moved to China to oversee production to ensure a quality product (both in terms of aesthetics & safety). The factory in China is ICTI certified.
Furnis Spielwelt: Insect & Ring Mobiles, Furnis Dolls (Pablo, Mike, Maja etc), & some doll clothes are made in Sri Lanka. Other items are made in China.
Konrad Keller: Poland
Lana: Germany, Lithuania & Turkey
Sina Spielzeug: Germany
TJ Whitneys: China