Whoa, Rudolph! Toy Recalls Playing Havoc with Moms' Shopping Mood This Holiday Season

Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Whoa, Rudolph! Toy Recalls Playing Havoc with Moms' Shopping Mood This Holiday Season


The holiday season is upon us. How well have the toy merchants prepared moms for the season already decked with high-profile toy recalls?

The Mommy Blogs have been buzzing for months. Recalls on toys from Thomas the Tank Engine to Aquadots have gripped their attentionn. "Doesn't it seem like we are hearing about another toy recall every day? With 70 percent-80 percent of all toys being made in China and the holiday season around the corner, what do we do?" writes Melanie Weber, contributor to the MichMoms Blog.

How mad are moms? Online toy retailer eBeanstalk.com surveyed moms with young children in November. Among the results:

* 30% of moms say they would not buy any goods manufactured in China.

* 57% of moms say they are "hesitant" to buy made in China products.

* Prior to the recalls, 13% of moms said toys Made in China were unsafe. By the fall, that number jumped to 72%.

* 17% say that in light of the recalls, they would not buy toys from Mattel.

* 14% say that in light of the recalls, they would not buy toys from Fisher-Price (a division of Mattel).

All this means toy makers and toy retailers have a huge hurdle this holiday season: How to regain mom's trust.

Marketing experts say toy makers are already taking appropriate steps. Harvard Business School professor John Quelch praises Mattel's handling of the recalls. Among the smart moves: Publicizing the recalls, using the Internet effectively, and putting the CEO out in front. "He has apologized publicly and taken immediate steps to tighten quality assurance requirements on Mattel's suppliers. There has been no effort to duck behind blaming suppliers and distributors or even worse, consumers," he says.

But while manufacturers have been proactive, experts say retailers have lagged.

"Toy safety is clearly a concern for consumers this holiday season and you wouldn't know it by looking at American toy aisles," said Gloria Park Bartolone, VP, Maritz Research's Retail Group. "There's little or no signage to restore customers' confidence in toy safety, and most associates are not informed about the recalls. Retailers need to prepare, and fast."

Stores could do much more to maintain a bond of trust with shoppers, she says. Among her suggestions: Informing store associates about the recalls and training them to address questions and concerns from customers, creating signage to assure customers that shelves are regularly inspected to ensure toy aisles are "recall-free" and keeping an updated list of toy recalls on hand for store associates to use as a reference. Without that help, shoppers may simply turn to other non-toy products, she says. …

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