Categories
CPSIA Management podcast Politics Retail Sales Small Business Social Media

CPSC issues “guidance” for thrift and resale shops re: CPSIA

Thrift Store Sign
Creative Commons License photo credit: pixeljones

Earlier today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a press release to clarify their intent regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) as it relates to thrift stores, resale shops and the like.

The full press release can be found here, but the operative text is this:

The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that childrenâ??s products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban. Sellers of used childrenâ??s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.

The new safety law does not require resellers to test childrenâ??s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell childrenâ??s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties

Make note that thrift stores and resellers are not off the hook entirely, but that common sense changes were made to deal with a real world situation. Sort of.

Saying that old items aren’t subject to the law is one thing, until you turn around and say that the lead rules must still be obeyed. No one wants to be feeding kids lead with their Cocoa Krispies, but for once, it’d be nice if the CPSC would talk out of only one side of their mouth at a time.

Keep the pressure on, folks.

We still need to see better handling of the testing requirements for one of a kind (OOAK) and small lot manufacturers. Not to exempt them, simply to make their requirements fit their abilities rather than bankrupting them.

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/CPSIAThriftResaleShopClarification.mp3]
Categories
CPSIA podcast Retail Scouting Small Business

Your son’s Pinewood Derby car: a “banned hazardous substance”

Pinewood Derby
Creative Commons License photo credit: midiman

Random thoughts get me in trouble sometimes. Today I got a call from the service manager of one of our local Chevy dealers.

Every February, the troop helps them by hand washing 250-280 cars during the dealer’s annual customer care clinic. It’s a brilliant free event that gets the dealer’s customers into the showroom for 30-40 minutes, feeds them, offers them door prizes, and most importantly – gets their cars run through the shop for a head to toe diagnostic/safety once-over by their certified mechanics.

In addition to finding some safety issues that could be fatal because they stranded you somewhere remote during our Montana winters, it also does a nice job of filling out the repair shop’s appointment book for a couple of months. 

After the inspection once-over is done, it gives the Scouts a chance to be seen in public doing something people appreciate (ie: handwashing their cars in February in Montana – albeit in a heated auto shop).

Anyhow, that conversation and the related thought process got me to thinking about The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA otherwise known as HR4040) and Scouting. Yes, its a bit of a tangent, but I got there, so let’s move on.

Patches, Pinewood and Pants

Im wondering if Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Headquarters is aware that the CPSIA drastically tightens the rules for the sale and manufacture of children’s products, including clothing, furniture, toys and other items (basically, *everything* created for a young child).

Patches, gear and uniforms will fall under this law for Scouts in younger age groups. Old gear AND gear *currently in inventory* that has not been tested CANNOT BE SOLD, by Scout shops, on eBay, by retail stores, etc.

Even Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car kits are impacted. No manufacturers – not even one-of-a-kind (OOAK) products are exempted.

They didn’t leave out the Girl Scouts, of course.  All their gear and clothing are also under the watchful eye of this law.

The gear, patches and clothing currently in inventory is what will cause the most interest by BSA National because 300+ council offices have lots of stuff in inventory in their stores and summer camp trading posts. 

All of it has to be certified or tested, or it must be removed from sale on Feb 10th. Or someone has to find an exemption. Right now, there are no exemptions.

Why pick on the kids?

This law was written primarily to deal with large multi-national firms importing containers of lead-tainted junk toys, so the fines are substantial.

This law is big trouble for people who make homemade clothing/toys/furniture, for diaper services, for resale shops, those making their living on ebay/etsy.com and many others (including everyone they buy items from to make their business run).

Lots of effort is taking place to try and get it fixed, but its already a law and many of the rules have yet to be written by the CPSC – despite the fact that the major components of the law go into effect on Feb 10. As written, the law impacts everyone.

Im curious if this is even remotely on the BSA’s radar because it will impact every council scout shop and every retailer who carries Scout items, new or used.

It will impact all the ordering of gear, patches and so on for NOAC 2009, for the 45,000+ attendees of the 100th Anniversary National Scout Jamboree at Camp A.P. Hill in Virginia, and every summer camp’s trading post for the 2009 season (and so on). That’s a lot of stuff. 

Is the CPSIA a surprise for you? You’re in luck

Ive posted a number of articles about the CPSIA, so if this is the first you’ve heard about it, I’d suggest starting your CPSIA education here and I would also suggest calling the BSA National office and ask them about CPSIA compliance of items from BSA National Supply. Don’t bother your council office with this (unless you’re on the council board) because they really can’t do much about it other than make sure they are ordering from CPSIA-compliant vendors.

In the meantime, you might also see if your Scout shop has a sale on Pinewood Cars – and buy your model car paint early. At present, there’s no telling what the status of model paints will be after Feb 10.

The reach of this law never ceases to amaze me.

Have you called your Senators’ DC offices?

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/PinewoodDerbyHazardousSubstance.mp3]
Categories
CPSIA Media Montana Politics Retail Small Business

What you should be doing about the CPSIA

mini-me
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gustty

I spent some time on the phone today with Senator Baucus’ office in DC. Ended up spending about 20 minutes with Bruce Fergusson, Baucus’ business specialist in this area. 

Bottom line – he said this:

  • If you contact your reps/Senators, calling them by phone is far and away the best thing to do. Call their DC office. Everyone emails and almost no one calls. Calling stands out and gets a real person on the line most times.
  • Because the legislation is already law, calling the CPSC for clarification of the impact on your specific business is best. They have till Feb 10 to formulate the first set of rules for the CPSIA. Your call – the sooner the better – can impact the result. You can contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission via the contact info behind this link.

 

Meanwhile, keep working on the other channels of communication:

  • Work as much as possible by phone.
  • Blog.
  • Write letters – real ones with a stamp.
  • Fax.
  • Get interviewed on local tv, radio or in the newspaper.
  • Talk to your vendors, manufacturers reps and markets about it. 
  • Tell your customers about it and ask them to contact their representatives. Give them a short letter to mail and sign to make it easy.

The number of people who know about this law is still very, very small. You can fix that.

February 10th is just around the corner.

Categories
China Competition CPSIA Entrepreneurs Leadership Montana podcast Retail service Small Business

Sweatshirts and t-shirts: Wondering who the CPSIA will put out of business.

Long-gone heyday
Creative Commons License photo credit: Bitterroot

I wonder whose business might be impacted by the CPSIA. 

I wonder about the nice lady whose son was in my troop years back. She embroiders and sells Columbia Falls Wildcat sweatshirts, tshirts, letter jackets and such – including items for little kids. Fortunately for her, the majority of her business isn’t for kids 12 and under, so she’ll probably be ok. BUT, she may have to replace that revenue stream. 

I wonder who she buys those kids’ sweatshirts and tshirts from. Maybe a wholesale tshirt and sweatshirt vendor in Minneapolis. 

I wonder how much of that Minnesotan’s business comes from folks who silkscreen, embroider or otherwise augment those items and then resell them.

I wonder how many of their employees will find new jobs as a result. 

I wonder how their buying power will change. 

I wonder if all of those silkscreeners, embroiderers and such are wholesaling their items to someone and if so, I wonder if those retailers have found another source of those items. 

I wonder about all the small retailers who have tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in now-non-compliant inventory and see that date in February looming.  Not having a CPSIA tag means non-compliant, regardless of content.

I wonder if, after Feb 10 – when no one can legally buy those items – what they’ll do with all that stuff.

I wonder if they’ll sell them anyway and dare the Consumer Product Safety Commission to find, catch and prosecute them.

I wonder if a $12.95 tshirt sale is worth a $100,000 fine. 

I wonder how many attorneys will make it big because of this legislation. 

I wonder how many local tourist shops will have to start buying their tshirts from big out-of-town importers and manufacturers instead of locals.

I wonder what those locals will do for a living if that happens.

I wonder what their bankers will do if the mortgage those locals have goes south.

I wonder if all those Chinese sweatshops have testing vendors lined up. They’ll be happy to make those sweatshirts, tshirts, baby booties, bibs and hand-painted sippy cups to replace the items that used to come from unique local vendors. I mean, come on…there’s nothing more special than a Glacier Park baby bib with a cute little baby moose sewn on it, especially if it was made in Shanghai by some poor schlep making 12 cents a day. 

I wonder if there are enough thankless low-paying jobs at the local box store to employ these artisans and the others impacted by the closing of those artisans’ businesses. 

I wonder which Congressional rep and Senator has the most homemade kids product manufacturers in their district.

I wonder if those reps and Senators’ phones have melted. Or if they ring at all.

I wonder… who is the largest retailer of handmade products in the US?

I wonder who is the largest supplier of raw material to the handmade kids product industry? 

I wonder what these two businesses will be doing in March.

I wonder about the impact on Etsy.com and ebay, which is aching enough as it is.

I wonder if cloth diaper services have to test their diapers. 

I wonder how many stores that sell beads and other crafty little things like that will have “no kids under 12 allowed” signs on the doors next year. 

I wonder if all those little “make your own bear/pottery/etc” stores are ready for this. 

I wonder if you’ll be impacted. 

I wonder if you’ll call your Congressional Rep and Senators. 

I wonder if you’ll tell someone about the CPSIA. 

I wonder.

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/IWonderAboutTheCPSIA.mp3]
Categories
CPSIA Legal Management podcast Retail Small Business

Heard in the slammer: “I used to make handmade toys”

One of these days, my granddaughter would love it if I bought her a little homemade bear like the one in the photo.

Trouble is that after February 9th 2008, it’ll be a violation of Federal law to sell it to me.

Doesn’t matter if it’s sold at a small retailer, a craft fair, a resale shop or in your expensive, high-end, fancy pants, mostly-imported toy store. Bottom line: If you sell or handcraft toys or clothing for kids, it’s entirely possible that you will be out of business as of February 10th 2009.

Read that again. It’s 56 days from today (Dec 15, 2008).

While it would be easy to dismiss this as me overdosing on too much caffeine, I’m sorry to say that isn’t the problem.

CPSIA – A Slam Dunk

Remember Christmas 2007?

Not only were retailers flush with good retail sales, but the news was full of recalls of defective toys from China and elsewhere – in some cases, toys made in the Chinese plants of American toy “manufacturers”. Lead was a prevalent issue.

These problems angered the nation at large and embarrassed Congress. In those circumstances, its just a matter of time before legislation results.

In this case, the result was the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). If you’re a craftsperson who makes toys and kids clothing or a retailer who sells these items, the CPSIA is your Patriot Act and you aren’t the good guy.

This law was so well-favored that when you combine the results of the House and Senate votes on the final legislation, it received only THREE “No” votes.

More presidential candidates MISSED the vote than did those who voted against it. 

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), passed on July 31 2008 and signed into law by President Bush on August 14 2008. The Act makes it illegal to manufacture or sell toys, clothing and other items for children that do not meet the act’s testing and labeling requirements. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s budget has been increased by $620 million so they can enforce this law, whose details were largely left up to the commission.

All it would have taken to help small business owners exemption-wise was to include some common sense testing and labeling exemptions for all natural toys and clothing. That would have left a good piece of legislation in place, without threatening a ton of home-based businesses.

Unfortunately the CPSIA contains nothing like that. Work at home folks don’t have a big lobby in Washington. The handcrafted wooden toy crowd has only the newly founded Handmade Toy Alliance, which at last count had fewer than 100 members. As you might suspect, they aren’t a power player in Beltway circles.

The big boys like Mattel, Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us are substantially impacted by CPSIA, but quite frankly – if they had been better corporate citizens from the outset, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Mostly, this is great news for parents trying to find better products for their kids.

There’s always a “but”

Again, there is nothing in the Act that eliminates or alters the testing and labeling requirements for those that use 100% all natural materials during manufacturing. Perhaps that was considered a loophole that was just too big.

Is petroleum a natural substance? If so, then all plastics must be too, right? And why isn’t lead?

Before you go off the deep end about your cousin who chewed on too much lead paint when he was a kid, I have to say that in general, I am a fan of this legislation. It’s the only way to get large importers and offshore manufacturers to get their act together.

Obviously this law was sorely needed to deal with repeated instances of imported items containing lead, small parts on infant toys, much less the weaknesses in our existing regulations.

Objects in your mirror are larger than they appear

If you think a little harder, the target is much bigger than a bunch of craftspeople selling their wares on Etsy.com (link goes to their open letter to the CPSC re: CPSIA), eBay, craft fairs and small local retail shops.

Anyone who sells this stuff has a new cost of doing business to add to their expense list. Anyone who has these items in inventory has to get rid of that inventory by February 10, 2009 (some can wait till August), or pay to have it tested and labeled per CPSIA requirements.

While the large manufacturer suddenly has a substantial new COGS item, it’s the little guy is the one who is going to suffer the most because they simply can’t afford the testing that is required.

For example, there’s a retired lady here in the Flathead Valley who makes little wooden trains in her garage woodshop. She carefully scans paint manufacturer websites and questions their representatives by phone to be sure there’s no lead or other nasties in the paint she uses on her carefully made toys. Her business is history if the CPSIA stands as written.

I just don’t care…or do I?

You might be thinking that you really don’t care. Maybe you don’t have kids or you only buy toys and clothing from major American manufacturers (er, I mean importers). Or maybe you don’t own a store that caters to kids, so why would you care?

It’s time you started caring, but let me help you decide. Here are a few examples of businesses that will be impacted by the CPSIA, otherwise known as “reasons to care”:

  • If you make wooden trains in your garage and sell them *anywhere*, you get to pay $4000 per toy to a 3rd party testing lab to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
  • If you make sock monkeys at home and sell them at your local craft fairs and tourist shops, you have three choices: sell them in violation of the law, close up shop or pay the fee to have your items tested. Each SKU = $4000, most likely.
  • If you own a small toy store, sell items that cater to kids, or you sell antique toys or anything else that comes to you without CPSIA-compliant labeling, you have to pay to test every item, or make sure that it has been tested. Presumably, testing a small sample of the same lot is acceptable, but “presumably” is not a way to stay legal. I suggest contacting a testing lab and/or attorney for more info.
  • If you import all your toys from Europe, you have to have them all tested, despite the fact that Europe has for years had stricter toy safety standards than the U.S. Again, the same advice as above regarding testing of items in the same lot.
  • If you create or sell science kits for homeschoolers, the CPSIA appears to apply.
  • If you’re a school who buys such kits, your vendors may also be subject to it.
  • Every U.S. toy manufacturer who actually manufactures items here at home – and likely had nothing to do with the toy recalls from 2007 – still has to pay to test their toys. That part makes sense, unless the items in question are made from 100% natural materials.
  • If you enjoy shopping for your kids at craft fairs, online at Etsy.com or eBay, or you like buying used toys and clothing – sales of items that do not conform to CPSIA regulations and that have not been tested will be illegal to sell to you.
  • If you sell items for kids on eBay, all your existing untested or non-compliant inventory has to be sold before February 10 or it cannot be sold without being tested. The phase-in starts with larger concerns, but it’ll get to you before you know it.
  • Retailers can be held liable for selling any handmade toys or children’s items that are not tested by a CPSIA-compliant lab and labeled per the CPSIA.

If you don’t own a business that has anything to do with kids, don’t think it doesn’t impact you. Think about the owners, employees and family members of the businesses described above. They might not be spending money in your store by the time the CPSIA gets done with them.

Do these artisans buy computer paper, coffee, towels, hamburger, gasoline, haircuts, dog grooming, fine wines, appliances, landscaping, envelopes or tires from you?

What will they buy from you if they are put out of business by this law? Are you in line for a bailout?

Suddenly, it’s time to care, eh?

What do I do next?

First, call your Senators and your Congressional Rep. DO NOT email them. DO NOT fax them. Those things are far too easy to ignore.

Call them and hold their feet to the fire.

Next…Research and legwork.

Remember that your existing inventory falls under this law, whether you are a retailer or a manufacturer, regardless of size. Some of the regulations kick in later in the year, so I suggest you read this coverage at Fashion Incubator for additional details. Here’s additional info on what must be tested per the CPSIA.

You have 56 days as of Monday December 15.

The full text of the law is here: HR 4040 or if you prefer a PDF, here. Check out the CPSIA frequently asked questions (FAQ) list at http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/faq/105faq.html.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s website does a nice job of summarizing this well-intentioned, but incomplete bill.

[audio:https://www.rescuemarketing.com/podcast/HeardInTheSlammerHomemadeToys.mp3]