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Industry groups push for sell-through extension on new crib regulations

Jane Kitchen -- Kids Today, June 13, 2011

The National Independent Nursery Furniture Retailers Association, Baby News, USA Baby, and the All Baby and Child Board have come together to petition the Consumer Products Safety Commission to allow retailers an additional 180 days past the June 28 deadline for retailers to sell through existing crib inventory. As the law stands now, the June 28 deadline stands as the day both manufacturers and retailers must adhere to the new 16CFR regulations for the production and sale of cribs. 

"Never has there been a situation where manufacturers have to stop selling merchandise on June 28 and retailers have to stop selling inventory on June 28," said Rafael de Castro, executive director of NINFRA. "...You normally have a manufacturer phase and then a retail phase." 

De Castro and others argue that the industry, and particularly small business owners, will be hard-hit if they aren't allowed time to sell their existing inventory. 

"We're all for this new standard; what we're not for is the way they've decided to implement it," said de Castro.

With a delay in accreditation of the labs necessary to test to the new standards, said South Dakota-based NINFRA retailer Gene Francis, it wasn't until April that he started getting up-to-code merchandise. 

"We did not have six months to sell," said Francis. "March is when it really started to shape up, and the momentum did not get going till April."

Francis said he estimates that there are 10,000 to 20,000 cribs in the marketplace that are not compliant with the new 16CFR standards but are compliant with the most recent ASTM 1169-09, 1169-10 or 1169-10(a) standards, which vary only slightly from 16CFR.

"Overregulation is going to lead to the destroying of thousands of cribs that are perfectly good -- many that are better than what will come out after the new regulations," he said. 

The new federal regulations state that cribs that do not meet the new 16CFR standards not only cannot be sold at retail, but cannot be sold second-hand or even donated. 

"They will go to landfills - you bet," said Francis. 

And de Castro said it's important to remember that this is a new standard and not a recall of existing merchandise that has been deemed unsafe.

"Standards make cribs safer; recalls take unsafe cribs off the market," he explained. "We do not want an extension to sell cribs that are not safe...the truth is, if what we were selling today wasn't safe, we wouldn't be able to sell it."

But not everyone is on board for the 180-day extension. Noticeably absent from the petition was the Baby Furniture Plus Association. 

"Baby Furniture Plus Association took the new regulation changes very seriously and prepared for the June 28 date responsibly," said Beth Jarabek, executive director of BFPA. "We put our trust in our manufacturing partners that the information and retrofit kits they provided stores have been tested and meet the new standards to 16CFR 1219." 

South Carolina Baby Furniture Plus retailer Philip Fairey said he's against the 180-day extension.

"We knew we would have to be on top of this from day one," said Fairey. "...Twenty-five to 30% of our inventory was cleared over the course of six months for cost and freight, and that's a huge loss. We've really positioned ourselves financially to just be done with this at this point...It's really unfair financially to the people who followed the letter of the law."

Fairey said he's been receiving compliant merchandise at his two stores for the past three months, and doesn't see any issue with a delay in compliant merchandise. 

Additionally, said Fairey, "It's not our position to make a stand in opposition in promoting something that is more safe."

Jarabek said that as long as the retrofit kits - which take existing cribs and add hardware to make them compliant to 16CFR - are accepted by the government, she sees no reason for a 180-day sell through. 

"We agree, an extension would be needed if the viability of the retrofit kits was deemed by the government to be non-compliant," said Jarabek. "We feel strongly, though, that if these kits are allowed, then there is no reason to extend the sell-through period being petitioned. It would be unfair to penalize those who took the mandate to heart, incurred the hit and expense to their businesses and moved through the cribs as they were directed to do so by the government."

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Assn. is in support of an enforcement policy that accepts the 1169 standards during a transition period, said JPMA executive director Mike Dwyer in a conference call discussing the new regulations last week, but, he said, "ultimately that's up to the CPSC."

" is JPMA's position that a crib tested to the '09 standards is a robust safe crib that should not be deemed non-compliant, simply because it does not contain lock washers and has not been tested to the new standard," said Dwyer in a statement to Kids Today. 

Dwyer said that there are many non-drop-side cribs that have been discontinued by the manufacturers, and so would not make sense to re-test, that in all likelihood would pass the CFR standards except for warnings, instructions and lock washers. 

"All of these facts suggest that a reasonable enforcement policy by the CPSC that allows non-dropside cribs that have been tested and found compliant with F1169-09 (or the later versions F1169-10 and F1169-10a) should be allowed to be sold through so as not to negatively impact the retail community and leave them with perfectly safe, yet unsaleable cribs, in their inventory," said Dwyer.

NINFRA's de Castro said not allowing more time for retailers to sell through their inventory will hurt the industry. 

"All we're saying is our industry is suffering," he said. "As a small business owner, our number one asset is our inventory - it's what we borrow against. You're talking about really harming a business...I don't think anyone in CPSC thought about how this would affect small businesses."

But some retailers have said that the lead-up to June 28 has been painful, as competing retailers tried to sell off non-compliant merchandise at a severe discount.

"We strongly feel that moving past the June 28 date will bring some relief and stabilize the crib business by returning pricing structures back to normal margins and allowing stores to begin making a profit on crib sales again," said Jarabek. 

De Castro disagrees. 

"This is not just not good for our industry - it's not good for any industry," he said.

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