The news has been flooded with announcements of toy recalls lately. It leaves parents wondering what is safe for their children to play with, and what might be recalled next. Items made in China are under the most scruitiny.
Twenty five years ago the majority of the toys in my toybox were made in America. This doesn’t mean they were without their faults, but with stricter guidelines in the States, toys were less-likely to contain harmful substances like the ones being recalled today. This surge in recalls has taken us back to looking for toys made domestically. Sadly, however, these toys are hard to come by. The past twenty years has seen a dramatic shift from quality to quantity, from small and simple operations to large-scale manufacturing, deep discounts and the need to source from overseas where labor is cheaper.
The few remaining companies who create American-made items have been overwhelmed this Christmas season with unprecedented volume. My favorite American toymaker announced yesterday that they can no longer accept orders. We’re about four weeks away from Christmas and they have already recieved the maximum number of orders they can comfortably fill in time. Last year they were easily filling orders a week before Christmas. This year they prepared in advance by stockpiling toys, but those stores have been long gone, and orders were taking two weeks to fill in early October. The facility in Vermont is at full capacity. They are operating 17 hours a day. While they are hopeful that they will be able to get back to their normal schedules once the holiday season is over, I am sure the demand for their quaitiy wooden toys will not decrease.
This creates a strange dynamic. On one hand you have something great, a strong demand for quality, wood toys and labor right here in the USA. On the other hand, why did it take these recalls to come to this? Why did we wait until this wake up call to make a decision to buy American? Where were all of you last year?
I’m so sad that we’ll have to stop filling orders for these quality toys three weeks too soon. There are still some toys in stock, and I expect more next week, but when those are gone, they’re gone until 2008. And maybe that will be a year of great expansion for American toymakers!