by KRISTIN MORENCY GOLDMAN, senior advisor, strategic communications, The Toy Association
The international shipping crisis — caused by a remarkable increase in consumer demand coupled with a shortage of shipping containers and massive congestion at the ports — is severely impacting every consumer category from furniture and apparel to electronics and toys. Unfortunately, it might be a lot harder for shoppers to find what they are looking for this holiday season.
The Toy Association is aggressively tackling the shipping crisis on behalf of the toy community by urging government officials to implement solutions; sending letters to the House Transportation Subcommittee and to Congress to underscore the issue; meeting with the Federal Maritime Commission; and spreading media awareness about how these disruptions are threatening the toy business and its annual U.S. economic impact of $97.2 billion. The Association is also actively encouraging parents and other gift-givers to #ShopEarly4Toys to avoid disappointment.
“The Toy Association launched a media campaign in late summer urging families to shop early for toys this Christmas, rather than waiting too long or for promotional sales,” says Adrienne Appell, senior vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association. “We know the shipping crisis is being felt not only across the toy industry, but also by families scrambling to find the toys their children have their hearts set on. Getting the message out there to shop early and avoid disappointment has been a key focus of our communications heading into Q4.”
Coupled with the “shop early” message, The Toy Association has been educating consumers on the dangers of counterfeit toys lurking online to ensure that parents and other gift-givers are not turning to unreputable sellers peddling fake and unsafe products as they search for the toys on their kids’ wish lists.
“Given the rise in online shopping and the forecasted shortage of products, we are stressing the importance of being extra vigilant about counterfeits,” Appell adds. “A ‘toy’ sold by an unknown and unverified online seller might be a fake that has not undergone the safety testing required by federal law. If a deal on a hot toy looks too good to be true, it probably is. We are advising consumers to buy the real thing — or wait for a trusted retailer to re-stock what they are looking for rather than buy a fake toy or cheaper alternative that might be unsafe.”
“We know the shipping crisis is being felt not only across the toy industry, but also by families scrambling to find the toys their children have their hearts set on.” — Adrienne Appell, The Toy Association
Here are some tips for avoiding counterfeits that the toy community is encouraged to share with families:
- Shop at reputable stores and online retailers you know and trust. Toys sold at these establishments are guaranteed to have been tested for compliance with more than 100 strict standards and tests.
- When shopping online, your best bet is to visit the toy brand’s website and either purchase directly from the site or follow links to an official retailer.
- Look at the internet address when shopping online. A secure site will have “https://” at the start.
- Check that the brand or company you are purchasing from has a professional-looking website. Can’t find a website for the manufacturer or seller? That’s a red flag.
- Check product reviews. If they are negative, filled with grammatical errors, or if there aren’t many, it’s a clue that the product could be a fake.
- Check the product images. Poorly edited pictures of kids playing are another clue that the product could be illegitimate, and therefore unsafe.
- If you do receive a product that you believe is fake, contact your credit card company. Not only will you get a refund, but if there are numerous complaints, the fraudulent seller can also be identified by the credit card company who will, in turn, stop working with them.
- Be vigilant when buying from international sellers. For products shipped directly from international sellers, check seller ratings. You can generally identify international shipments based on how long it takes for a product to get to you.
- Inspect the product and packaging when it arrives to not only make sure it meets expectations, but also to check for broken or damaged parts that may break off and pose choking hazards.
- If you aren’t sure, check the brand’s website to compare your toy with the toy advertised. And contact the brand’s customer service. They will gladly help ensure that you have the real toy!
- The Toy Association will share tips for avoiding counterfeits and more general toy safety advice during its Toy Safety Awareness Month this November. Throughout the month, the Association will highlight the toy community’s dedication to product safety and promoting safe play to parents and caregivers.
Manufacturers, retailers, and anyone passionate about toys and play are encouraged to take part and become a “Toy Safety Awareness Ambassador.” More information about the initiative, including social media assets, will be shared in the coming weeks.
This article was originally published in the October edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!