Christmas toy choices, recalls and parental obliviousness

Parents' uneasiness related to recalls of Chinese-made lead-contaminated toys may have affected holiday sales, but many US consumers are still unaware about where toys are made, according to a poll conducted in the week before Christmas, writes MarketingCharts. Anderson Analytics polled 100 parents on behalf of Toy Tips and Parenting Hints Magazine in an effort to better understand the impact of recent toy recalls on what many say was the busiest week for retailers this season. Among the survey results:
  • Though large numbers of parents recalled their favorite toy from childhood as being a "Doll/Barbie" (45 percent of mothers), a "car" or (interestingly) a "Transformer" (36 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of fathers), the most popular intended gifts for children were "videogames" (21 percent) and "learning books" (17 percent).
  • When asked which if any concerns parents had in selecting a toy for their child, the majority indicated no specific concerns (41 percent). Among those who had concerns, "age appropriateness" followed by "safety" and specifically "lead" were top of mind.
  • However, about half of parents said they rarely or never check where their toy is made. The other half said they usually (32 percent) or always (13 percent) check. However, 61 percent were not able to recall where the last toy they purchased was manufactured.
  • Among those who said they knew, the majority said the toy was manufactured in China, and about a quarter said the USA - but many seem to associate the toy with a specific retailer rather than country of origin.
"We're seeing two different things here," said Tom H. C. Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics, "On the one hand parents seem to realize that most toys today are made in China; secondly, once again we see the difficulty of many Americans to think geographically." He said some parents "even seemed to think about toys in terms of which retail outlet they purchased the product from rather than about country of manufacture; some parents were saying 'Toys R US, USA,' 'Target USA' or 'Wal-Mart (USA).' Based on other studies we have done, I wasn't so surprised." Findings related to toy recalls:
  • Asked whether in regard to the recent recall-related news they would be more or less likely to purchase a toy based on country of manufacture:
  • A quarter of parents said they were just as likely to purchase a toy made in China as before.
  • Half said they would be less likely to purchase a Chinese made toy in the future.
  • One-fifth said they would not at all be likely to purchase a Chinese made toy.
  • A quarter of parents said they had been recently affected by recalls and had returned a purchased toy.
  • Asked about which toys/brands had been affected by the recalls, parents noted Mattel (31 percent), followed by Fisher Price (21 percent), and Hasbro (14 percent). Specific toys mentioned were "Thomas the Train," "Polly Pocket," and "Aqua Dots," each noted by 14 percent of parents.
  • As a result of the recent news the majority of parents are either very interested (47 percent) or "somewhat interested" (22 percent) in staying informed to learn more about new recall information.
  • Over half (57 percent) said they planned to choose other products as gifts for their children this season.
  • One such alternate product which could benefit may be videogames: 36 percent of parents agreed that they were now either "much more likely" (6 percent) or "somewhat more likely" (29 percent) to purchase videogames for their children as a result of the recalls.
About the survey: One thousand Toy Tips readers were emailed an invitation to a 21-question survey the week before Christmas 2007. Respondents were screened for the presence of children living at home. The survey contained several open-ended questions, and the first 100 responses were text- analyzed on December 22 using Andersons' natural-language processing methodology.

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