U.S. News

Few choices for shoppers after toy recalls

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A major toy recall by Mattel Inc on Tuesday -- its second in two weeks -- offers little relief to frustrated shoppers faced with few choices ahead of the crucial holiday season: almost everything, it seems, is “Made in China” nowadays.

Watching over her children at a Toys “R” Us store in New York City’s Times Square, shopper Genia Seibold said she’d try to find U.S.-made toys in smaller stores, especially for Christmas, to avoid giving unsafe toys as gifts.

“Almost every toy in the store is from China .... Where do you go if you reject (them)? You’d be stuck,” she said.

Mattel, the largest U.S. toy company, recalled of millions of toys on Tuesday, citing health hazards from small powerful magnets in some toys and lead paint in others. This followed its August 1 recall of about 1.5 million toys whose paint may contain excessive amounts of lead.

In June, RC2 Corp recalled wooden Thomas & Friends toy trains, citing similar concerns.

Seibold is among a growing number of U.S. consumers who say they feel cornered as so much of what they use, from clothes to appliances, are made in China, whose exports have recently raised safety alarms. And with the key U.S. holiday season around the corner, shoppers may be starting to look for labels that say anything other than “Made in China.”

Though Seibold has saved her older children’s toys for her third child, who is due to be born soon, she said that after the recent recalls, “I’d pick up each one (of those toys) and make sure they are not the ones causing concern.”


Several shoppers at the Toys “R” Us at Times Square said they knew about Mattel’s earlier recall, but not of the one on Tuesday.

Assistant Manager of Kinder Haus Toys Laura Grossi removes toys from the store's shelves in Arlington, Virginia, August 14, 2007. REUTERS/Jim Young

Shopper Susan Netzer said that normally she would not worry too much about the recall, but she was not sure anymore after Tuesday’s news.

Netzer said her degree of concern would have been “very different” if her nearly 2-year-old daughter were at a stage where she chewed on toys.

Parents typically worry more about recalled food, rather than recalled toys, said Miriam Tager, director of a Preschool of America child-care center in New York City. No parents have called to express concern about toys there, she added.

Even though the center uses mostly educational toys, which were not involved in the recalls, Tager said she would like to examine them more closely following the latest news.


Tuesday’s recall and others including tainted pet food, Chinese-made toothpaste and seafood may be a hurdle for companies like Mattel -- but not for long, some analysts and consumers said.

“(Sales) are going to cool off till about Christmas, but they will return to normal again,” said Charles Douglas, a retail executive in New York, who fretted about buying toys for his 3-year-old niece.

“All those companies care about is the bottom line. So if cheaper paint is going to help that bottom line, they’ll go for it -- and hope nobody is going to catch on,” Douglas said.

Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Sean McGowan echoed the idea that toy recalls usually only affect sales of the products in question, not all products from a company.

“Santa’s (still) going to come and make his rounds and have things in his bag,” McGowan said.

Additional reporting by Regan E. Doherty in Chicago