The Fisher-Price Recalls: A Punch in the Gut


6a0133ec87bd6d970b0133f4bddcbe970b-500wi I was feeling pretty good this morning.  BMO Capital financial analyst, Gerrick Johnson, had just released his analysis of the toy market in which he said:  “We are particularly encouraged by the outlook for the toy industry, which looks stronger than it has in years.” 
He cited: “[B]etter innovation, a softening of the video game market, the emergence of "must-have" items, and an expansion of the retail channel” as the reasons.

In addition, he had very positive words for Mattel.  Some of the reasons he cited were “…[A] better-performing toy industry overall…[Mattel’s] key brands (Barbie, Hot Wheels) are performing better and are in the early stages of cyclical growth…[and that]  new products are performing better than expected (Monster High, Sing-a-ma-jigs, etc.).”

I was feeling really good…and then I read a breaking news release.  At 8:00 AM Eastern time, that same Mattel announced that they were recalling 10.9 million Fisher-Price toys.

What a punch in the gut.  Here is how Bloomberg News puts it:

The recalls are led by 7 million Fisher-Price tricycles, after 10 injuries were reported when children struck a protruding plastic “ignition key” on the toy… Fisher-Price also is recalling 2.8 million infant toys, including the Baby Playzone Crawl & Cruise, for choking hazards, the CPSC said.

The toymaker will recall 950,000 high chairs after reports of 14 injuries, including seven children who needed stitches and one treated for a tooth injury. The recalls also cover 100,000 toy cars with wheels that may detach, the agency said.

Mattel states that their toys are overwhelmingly safe…and they are.  That, unfortunately, does not make much of a difference in a consumer marketplace that is just getting over the 2007 recalls and while the toy industry is fighting for more reasonable testing standards.

Unfortunately, as Bloomberg news points out, these recalls represent flaws in both design and manufacturing.  The diversity of the products recalled makes the issue even more troubling, because the problems were found not among one product line, but across several — toy cars, tricycles, infant toys and high chairs.

Mattel’s over-sized reputation in the toy industry means that they have a responsibility to both consumers and the toy industry to uphold the highest safety standards.  Consumers undoubtedly think to themselves, “If Mattel’s toys are not safe, who can we trust?”

That is why it is good to see them moving quickly and sending out a clear message of concern and action while reminding the consuming public that Mattel toys (and all toys for that matter) are safe.  All of us in the toy industry have a vested interest in Mattel cleaning this up as quickly as possible. 

5 thoughts

  1. Spoke with Mattel- they made 7 million trikes over a 10 year span and had 10 complaints. Those 10 complaints were enough to show a “pattern”. I’ll bet 6.5mm of the 7mm are already out of circulation.

  2. Why are you surprised?
    You may have forgotten, that it was a simular experience with Mattel in 2007 that resulted in the CPSIA.
    To add insult to injury, Mattel is the only toy company in the U.S that is exempt from the CPSIA’s regulation of independent, third party testing.
    Once again it’s proven that self regulation doesn’t work.

  3. Great post Richard!
    Having worked at Mattel in Infant & Preschool design, I know first hand that their product safety department is state of the art. And, as a mom of three kids, my children have been injured on products in the most amazing ways. That’s my 2 cents.
    Guess what bothers me is that those small bouncy balls are still being made and given out at dentist offices, in party bags, etc. Do you know how many kids of all ages have swallowed those balls and died? For 19 years, I have been throwing them out sick to my stomach. (Sorry, got on a roll there.)

  4. Watching the ABC news report, my first reaction to the tricycles was that maybe consumer claims had been inflated. That key does not look like it can cause serious injury (but I only saw a picture), and the replacement solution detracts play value.
    And Mattel has been a target in the past (the mom who videotaped her child getting her hair chewed up rather than helping her comes to mind).
    But the high chairs – how could they let that pass ? Looks like a real design flaw, that screw just sticking out begging to hurt somebody. Finally, from experience making cars for McDonald’s, wheels are a really tough issue and require a lot of resources (design, safety, QC). Disappointing that F-P didn’t get it right.

  5. In response perhaps consumers may turn this around and say that smaller indi toy companies can pay more attention than the likes of Mattel to the issue of product safety thru design.

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