Sunday, January 25, 2009

How the CPSIA could affect Babycapes

A lot has been written around the blogosphere about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which was passed in August 2008 and will go into effect on Feb. 10 of this year. The law, although its intentions were good, could, in effect, wipe out an entire cottage industry in this country. Small businesses that produce/sell children's products (like Suzi Homemaker and Babycapes) are going to be required to implement extensive and expensive testing on all products that are used by children under the age of 12.

Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in children's products, mandates third party testing and certification, and requires manufacturers of all goods for children under the age of 12, to permanently label each item with a date and batch number.

I am not an expert on this law, but I am an expert on Babycapes. Rather than go on about how ill-conceived the CPSIA is (there are hundreds if not thousands of other bloggers and small business owners that have written about it--just Google "CPSIA" and you will be amazed at the public outcry), I am going to tell you a little bit about how this law will affect Babycapes.

First, a little background information...When Elizabeth and I set out to make this wonderful product more than two years ago, we both felt strongly about having it produced in the United States because of the stigma surrounding products being made in China. Even though we are paying three times as much per garment to sew it in the U.S., we felt it was important to keep production in this country and put Americans to work. Initially, we hired several seamstresses to produce the capes, but soon demand became so great that they could not keep up so we set out to find a sewing contractor to produce a large quantity of capes in a relatively short period of time. There are not many U.S. sewing contractors left, so it was quite a feat to find one that was relatively close by.

We purchase our luxurious Minky fabric from a wholesaler in North Carolina rather than purchase directly from Korea (where the fabric is produced, again, putting Americans to work), our snaps from an American-based notions supplier, and our labels are produced by an American company in Florida that also produces our hang tags. According to the CPSIA, it is not enough to obtain certificates of conformancy from these suppliers. Instead, we will be required to test a sample item from each lot of Babycapes, in each color and style, after complete assembly, and then the testing must be applied to each component (the fabric, the snaps, the labels, the hang tags and even the thread. Aside--I'm still trying to track down any instances of lead found in fabric or thread, but have had no luck thus far). Currently, we offer nine different styles of Babycapes and nine different styles of hats. Additionally, a new label will have to be added to each Babycape every production run providing the date and lot number. Those labels will need to be tested, too. That means 90+ different tests every production run.

And testing ain't cheap.

Not only does the law apply to future production runs, but to existing inventory as well. Although it has been amended slightly, the law initially stated that products that have not undergone testing will be considered contraband after February 10, 2009. According to the website, "It will be illegal to sell or give these items away to charities, and the government will require their destruction or permanent disposal, resulting in millions of tons of unnecessary waste, and placing an enormous strain on our landfills." (Can you imagine disposing of dozens of Babycapes at a landfill? I guarantee there will be renegade moms out there storming the trash piles, rescuing these precious garments before they hit the rubbish!) Rather than grandfathering in the testing requirements, existing inventory must comply with rigid standards, as well. So, again, more testing is necessary.

Not only is the testing expensive, it also is hard to come by as the number of certified testing facilities in the United States are few and far between--especially considering the sheer volume of children's products currently being offered in today's marketplace--all of which will need to be tested in order to show compliance with the new standards.

So what do we do? Cut down on the number of styles we produce, limiting choices for our customers? Jack up the prices to accommodate our testing bills? Take our business away from our U.S.-based sewing contractor and our American suppliers and give it to a factory in China or India because it will be less expensive to produce, padding our budgets a little to allow for ridiculous testing? The least attractive option would be to close our business completely, thereby throwing away the thousands of dollars we've invested bringing this wonderful product to market.

Our product was designed to keep babies and small children warm, comfortable, but most importantly, SAFE while traveling in car seats or strollers, do you really think we would use any supplies that would cause our children harm?

Please check out Goodies for Mom for a chance to win a Babycape and other wonderful handmade/mom-made products that will be adversely affected by this law.

1 comment:

Angie Vinez said...

This new law is heartbreaking. It has the power to wipe out so many mom-owned businesses. I hate it. I really hope that the government realizes their *huge* mistake and corrects the law to make sense. Right now all we can do is cause a stink with our Congressmen. Make them hear our points and see how wrong they are.

I love Babycapes. I am so thankful that they keep my children SAFE while they're in their car seats. Not to mention how absolutely adorable they are. If the world lost Babycapes, they'd lose a truly fantastic product. My prayer is that it never ever comes to that!