With Thanksgiving behind us, consumers have turned their attention to holiday shopping. Americans are expected to spend more this year than last, and when you look at where they plan to spend those dollars, toys make up one of the top gift categories.
The troubling news for consumers and manufacturers alike – toy recalls are on the rise. When we look at the data, we focus on two measurements: number of recalls and number of units affected. In all of 2016, there were a total of 16 toy recalls. Through Q3 2017, that number has already been surpassed at 19 recalls.
At the same time, the number of units affected has plummeted since last year – but there’s a catch. Nearly 29.5 million units were recalled last year, but the vast majority of them – 29 million – were for just one large recall. When that outlier is excluded, recalled toy units have gone from less than 500,000 in 2016 to nearly two million – four times higher than the previous year. And the year isn’t over yet.
This increase has taken place even as recall activity in the consumer product industry overall has declined substantially. If trends hold, 2017 is on pace for the lowest number of recalls in 20 years.
What’s behind recent toy recalls? Choking/small parts hazards have accounted for about 69 percent of recalled units through Q3 2017. It is also the top cause of toy recalls for both years. Particularly in 2016, burn and overheating hazards were also major contributors, especially when it comes to recalled units. These were largely due to issues with lithium-ion batteries, which come with added transportation and logistical challenges.
Toy manufacturers – especially those making in-demand products this holiday – must recognize this possibility, as well as the added sensitivity involved with products meant specifically for children. That means ensuring call center staffing levels are appropriate for the call volume and that agents are specially trained and armed with all the information to maintain a consistent message. Companies should also be ready to respond to complaints and disinformation on social media. And those that use lithium-ion batteries in their products should brush up on the latest complex regulations that govern them.
Unlike companies and individuals, the potential for recall will not take time off in the coming weeks. While a recall is the last thing leaders want to think about during this season, the peace of mind that comes with being prepared is the best possible gift they can give themselves.
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