Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is stepping up testing and safety reviews of the toys it sells to reassure consumers ahead of the critical holiday season after a series of recalls of Chinese-made toys over hazards to children.
Wal-Mart’s top toy executive said Thursday the retailer will ask manufacturers to resubmit testing documentation for toys already on the shelves or in shipment, so that Wal-Mart can double-check the results.
The world’s largest retailer is also increasing the number of toys tested at independent labs by 25 percent to 50 percent, or an average of 200 additional items daily.
“Reassurance is really our key point,” said Laura Phillips, Wal-Mart’s merchandise manager of toys.
“We’ve heard parents’ concerns over recent recalls and we’re working hard to be their advocate, ensuring everyone involved in the toy business plays their part in improving standards,” she said.
Phillips said she does not expect the stepped-up testing or the review of documentation on testing already done to delay or reduce inventory for the holiday season.
The toy industry has been shaken by several high-profile recalls of Chinese-made products, from Hasbro Inc.’s faulty Easy Bake Ovens to the worldwide recall of 1.5 million preschool toys from Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel, the nation’s largest toy maker.
The actions are part of a slew of recalls of Chinese-made products that include faulty tires and poisoned pet food. Phillips said shoppers are interested in seeing more toys made in countries other than China and that Wal-Mart is looking at producers in the United States, Mexico and Europe. “We’re hearing that customers are interested in products from lots of different places,” she said.
But Phillips said any shift would be incremental and would not have a major impact on the assortment on the shelves for the holiday season. “A lot of the pipeline is filled, as you would imagine, since it is already almost September,” Phillips said.
“We feel honestly that there will be great product from China that we know is safe because they’ve been a great supplier to us for many years, and with increased testing we know that product will be safe for our customers,” she said.
As part of its stepped up effort, Wal-Mart said it will share the results of its new tests and reviews with the toy industry and other retailers. “Wal-Mart also stands ready to help leaders in China who are implementing new testing procedures to ensure the highest safety standards for toy products,” the company said in a statement.