President's Letter: Toy Safety Every Day, Not Just The Holidays
It is well understood, there are no margins in unsafe toys and play products.
Educating families on how to keep their children safe at play is a year-round priority action in The Toy Association’s communications strategy. Taking this commitment to an even higher level, November marked our first official “Toy Safety Awareness Month.” While everyone in our industry knows manufacturers’ and retailers’ deep commitment to designing, producing, and delivering safe products that comply with 100+ stringent federal safety standards and tests, safety also needs to be a partnership shared by businesses and consumers. There’s so much more we can do.
Through our month-long intensive push designed to educate parents and caregivers about safe toy shopping/selection and safe play at home, we mobilized media around the nation and encouraged Toy Association members and others across the toy and play community to share helpful safety tips and advice with consumers on their social media channels, websites, in stores, and beyond. These actions frequently pointed to the PlaySafe.org resource. Our safety messaging and resources were even included in the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center Association’s holiday shopping guide this year. Your Association also provided members with access to an online toolkit for turnkey resources, including an infographic about how to avoid counterfeit toys, sample social media posts, and a safe shopping guide.
Going further, The Toy Association’s Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs, and Jennifer Gibbons, vice president of federal government affairs, were both out front in the media discussing the hazards lurking for toy shoppers during the holiday season. They tackled major issues around counterfeit products abound in online marketplaces and offered consumers safe toy shopping tips. Joan Lawrence and Toy Association board member and Vice Chairperson, Aaron Muderick of Crazy Aaron’s, also spoke out at separate U.S. Senate hearings where Joan addressed applying the strong toy standards for button batteries to other household products and Aaron detailed the proliferation of counterfeit and unsafe goods in e-commerce and a range of online marketplaces.
Through time, actions to educate and assist the media, and together with great effort on the part of everyone across our community, it has become unreasonable to say toymakers ignore safety. For the first time since U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) began publishing its annual “toy safety” reports 36 years ago, The Toy Association joined the NGO for its press conference on November 11 held in conjunction with the release of the group’s 2021 report. The Association’s Gibbons spoke alongside PIRG staff and medical and safety professionals, emphasizing the dangers of counterfeit toys sold online. While we and PIRG may disagree on some points, in today’s world we share many views and priorities that make our combined voices more valuable.
Elsewhere, while there is ample proof of industry commitment, exacting regulatory and testing standards that must be followed, and a continually better educated media and consumers, there remain huge disconnects. For example, World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) continues to leverage the holidays to needlessly alarm consumers and make dubious claims based on personal opinion, not proper testing in a federally approved lab. This year’s report unfortunately exemplified another unproductive panicky approach.
Perhaps as a result, this year W.A.T.C.H’s media reach continued to significantly decline. To date, it has been covered in just 373 placements of real value – 738 fewer than in 2020 and 1,263 fewer than in 2019. Interestingly, of those total placements, a Toy Association mention/interview/statement was included in a large number. Again, safety and helping families keep children safe at play is a year-round imperative, not something to gather, hold and unleash in a day long blitz.
In closing, as I said, there’s so much more we can do. We must do. Thank you, dear reader, for each and every action you personally take to address and advance safety. It never loses importance including here in the midst of the holiday season as we continue to live in a world of great turmoil. While total toy and play sales continue to boom, significant unevenness across our industry remains – many huge winners, many continuing to suffer both impacts of the pandemic and crushing financial blows of the shipping crisis. In the season of Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol” many unfortunately continue to experience his first line of, “A Tale of Two Cities.” As we continue to push back on these and a range of other issues threatening too many toy companies and retailers, sharing the good news of your commitment to toy safety has and does provide us a welcome bit of holiday warmth.
Here’s to a successful close to 2021, the hope and promise of 2022, and with all good wishes to each of you and your loved ones for health, security and happiness.
President & CEO