Saturday, January 17, 2009

where have all the children's products gone?

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I'm walking through my local Wal-Mart, in the baby section. Yes, I'm a pregnant lady cruising the aisles of cute baby gear. Except. There wasn't much baby gear. I realized that there was more light and space there than usual. I looked up. The top shelves were empty. I looked down. The cribs and mattresses were being sold at less-than-usual prices. There were 3 play yards on the shelf. Not 3 models, like usual, but just 3 ready to sell. There was one infant car seat in a box, of the 3 on display. There was lots of empty shelf space. And I realized that I'm already seeing the impact of the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act).

I've had friends tell me that their Target's clearance aisle has multiplied, and is full of toys. Not just the Christmas cast offs, but the regular stuff they keep in stock all the time.

I've seen signs in consignment shops and thrift stores, saying they are not accepting children's items, even after the supposed "Clarification" by the CPSC.

Shops on Etsy and Ebay are clearing out items and closing, because they simply can't comply with the law. It's too expensive to test those custom handmade items.

I first encountered word about the CPSIA from my friend Trent over at The Simple Dollar. His post was about the issues facing resellers. But, I came to understand that there's more to the law than face value.

It affects everything intended for children 12 and under. Toys, clothes, books, custom items, educational materials, furniture, new, used, existing inventory... I found an article over at that really lays out who it affects. You should definitely take a look at it.

Needless to say, I'm upset that I will have a difficult time finding handmade and custom products for my children. Like certain cloth diapers, wooden toys, the matching "Little Sibling" shirt that goes with Elizabeth's Big Sister shirt (I have to wait to find out if baby is boy or girl, but by that time, the custom shirts might not be available, due to the CPSIA. And the cost increase? Not pleased.

So, I've been doing lots of searching for information. I have hope that at least the law will be put on hold until they can sort out the regulations, and find viable alternatives for small businesses. I think the financial burden on small-scale manufacturers is too great.

I'm not looking forward to the likely price increases in children's products. I'm not looking forward to seeing thousands of at-home and small businesses that will suddenly be out of business. Yes, some could choose to continue to operate illegally, but, many people don't want to be running an illegal operation. I don't want to face the choice of participating in an illegal industry, even if I believe the law is wrong.

So, I've been making efforts to contact my senators and representatives about my concerns. I've been on voting this issue up in the hopes that maybe President-Elect Obama will have a chance to see the concerns before the law goes into effect February 10. I've contacted the CPSC to express my concerns as a consumer. And meanwhile, looking for good deals as manufacturers big and small sell off their products that don't comply with the law (which is not to say they have lead, just that they can't prove they don't have lead and phthalates, because they can't afford to test their items.)

Here are some websites and blogs that I've found to be interesting reads. They cover a small sampling of the industries affected, and the concerns of manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.

Cool Mom Picks - an excellent summary on the impacts on the handmade toy and clothing industry. Also lots of links to other articles on the the CPSIA.

National Bankruptcy Day - a site specifically about the CPSIA, so named because of the thousands of people and businesses that will likely go bankrupt if this law remains in effect as currently understood.

Publishers Weekly - a look at the CPSIA from the book publishing perspective. It inventory in stock, bot just items manufactured as of February 10, 2009.

Boston Phoenix - and article about potential impacts on libraries.

Fashion Incubator - Generally, this site deals with the apparel industry, but it has grown to cover more. The forums are an especially interesting read.


Anonymous said...

We so appreciate you helping to spread the word. Your personal story really helps bring to life how this impacts everyone and not just the artists and manufacturers.

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