Toy maker may move to China

Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio — Production of a classic American toy, the Etch A Sketch, could be headed overseas.

Ohio Art Co. is considering moving production to China from the northwest Ohio town of Bryan, where Etch A Sketch has been made since it was introduced in 1960.

Increasing labor and production costs might force the move, said Jerry Kneipp, the company’s chief financial officer. A decision will be made in January.

"We wouldn’t do it unless there were significant savings," Kneipp said Thursday.

Nearly all of the company’s other toys, including smaller versions of Etch A Sketch and its Betty Spaghetty doll, already are made in China.

Ohio Art has been struggling financially during the past two years.

It posted losses in the first two quarters of 2000, and its third-quarter earnings showed a 27 percent drop in profit and a 20 percent drop in sales from the same period a year ago.

Etch A Sketch sales, though, remain strong. Sales are up during the holiday shopping season, Kneipp said.

More than 100 million have been sold worldwide since 1960.

The toy lets kids scrawl artwork or messages, then erase with a quick shake. The classic Etch A Sketch is a red plastic box the size of standard-size piece of paper. But the toy now comes in all colors and shapes, including a key chain version.

Moving production would only affect about 30 workers in Bryan, but the loss would be a symbolic blow to the city of 9,000 people 60 miles west of Toledo.

The toy is such a fixture in Bryan that an oversized version is included in the holiday decorations on the town square.

"It’s a point of pride for the community," Kneipp said. "It just contributes to making the decision that much harder."

The community connection may have kept production of the toy in town longer than expected, he said.

"If it weren’t for that, it’s possible it would’ve been moved earlier," he said.

Ohio Art would still keep its headquarters and lithography production in Bryan along with a warehouse operation.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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