Local merchants escape brunt of toy recalls

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Susan Wolbrueck, owner of RetroMoto Toys in Manitou Springs, said that none of the items in her store were subject to any of the toy recalls.

First toy trains, now doll strollers — the wave of product recalls is making parents cringe and forcing retailers to put plans into action to reassure consumers, but local independent merchants say the impact on their bottom lines has been minimal.
The two-year-old Toys 4 Fun store in Colorado Springs was not affected by the recall and the eight-year-old Monument location only had a few train pieces recalled, said Eileen Arnold, manager of the Springs store.
She was referring to Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway items, which were recalled because of high levels of lead found in the surface paint.
Little Richard’s Toy Store in downtown Colorado Springs also had to pull a few items from the same company.
“There was $400 worth of product pulled off and sent back to the company and they gave us credit,” said Suzanne Doroski, the store’s buyer/manager.
RetroMoto Toys in Manitou Springs didn’t have any items in stock that were recalled.
“We put a sign on our window saying, ‘none of our toys have been recalled,’” said Owner Susan Wolbrueck. “We haven’t seen a slowdown in our business and I wondered about that — if people would stop buying out of fear.”
The recalls also have had a negligible impact on national retailers in the Springs. Melissa O’Brien, corporate communications-merchandise at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said the majority of the recalled products from Mattel were not yet on the shelves.

Consumer concern

But both retailers and consumers are concerned about the ongoing recalls and toy safety.
Lisa Jordan, whose son, Max, is 4, said she was concerned when she heard about the toy train products recall. She said she was aware that a low dosage of lead could cause partial brain damage and that high exposure can be lethal.
“I sent back the first time, I would say, maybe 12 or 13 toys,” she said. “I have to send back now, it looks like, five or six more items.”
Jordan said the toys she is replacing are mainly small Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway items such as stop signs, railroad crossing signs that go around the track, and that the company has been good about issuing replacements.
Because of concerned parents like Jordan, Little Richard’s made a list of where all its products are made. RetroMoto employees also keep educated on the recalls.
“I keep a packet of all the recalls,” Wolbrueck said. “We talk to customers about looking through the toy box for these products.”

Made in USA?

Even so, both said it is rare that a customer asks for a local product.
“One out of 30 or 40 might ask for a product made in the U.S.,” Doroski said.
Wolbrueck said about 10 to 15 percent of her customers ask about the recalls and lots ask if it is made in China.
“I don’t think I have any that are made in the U.S.,” Wolbrueck said. So, she refers customers to a local business that makes homemade wooden toys.
Wal-Mart also is being extra cautious in wake of the recalls.
The retailer has added an additional toy safety program and plans to purchase more products made in North America, O’Brien said. And while the recalls have caused extra effort on the part of retailers, the feeling is that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“I was told that … the child would have to lick every single bit of paint off that toy to get sick,” Doroski said. “So, they were being very careful.”
Joan.Johnson@csbj.com