Retailers That Play It Safe

At Jackrabbit Toys (jackrabbittoys.com) in Sea Girt, New Jersey, customers are asking more questions since this summer's high-profile recalls of toys made in China.
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This story appears in the November 2007 issue of . Subscribe »

The heightened concern presents an opportunity for U.S.-based retailers and manufacturers, says Richard Gottlieb, founder of Richard Gottlieb and Associates LLC, a business consulting firm that specializes in the toy market.

Shaky parents sick of pulling potentially dangerous playthings out of their kids' hands and mouths are likely willing to pay more for toys made in the U.S. or Europe, where manufacturing controls are more stringent, says Gottlieb. Mass market retailers are more open to hearing from smaller, U.S.-based manufacturers now, and that will continue if there are more recalls, he says. Manufacturers should be promoting their manufacturing locations on boxes and through print material to existing retail customers to give themselves an edge this holiday season.

"If you're a retailer, you should be investing in search engine optimization around the words 'toys made in USA.' You can do in-store promotions in brick-and-mortar [stores], big banners in the windows and old-fashioned newspaper advertising," he advises.

But Jackrabbit Toys' owner, Tracy Kuchar, 37, says it's hard to find products that aren't made in China--even U.S. manufacturers have operations there. She's been in touch with her suppliers so she can soothe customer concerns. "Some of our small toy-makers have always had their own people [in Chinese manufacturing plants] overseeing production," she says.

Touting your country of origin and safety measures is a "no-brainer," says Doug Hart, partner in the retail and consumer products practice at the San Francisco office of BDO Seidman LLP, a national accounting and business consulting firm. "Publicize your quality control standards, whether you're a manufacturer or a retailer," he says. Put information on your website, publicize your efforts and stay in touch with customers to quiet their concerns.

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