Seeing children engrossed in their toys brings back the balmy childhood days. It is a nostalgic moment for adults. Do you remember your favorite squishy toy? Did you play with it even if it was worn out? It surely was more than just a toy. Children learn the ways of the world through play. From motor movement development to sensory stimulation, toys are an important part of childhood learning. So, toys are an emotion! But what if we tell you that your kids’ toys may be killing their vital organs. What if the objects that are supposed to be fun and learning aids have a shady grey side? It sounds extreme and unrealistic, right? But fake toys are a reality. The obscure world of counterfeit products has not spared even baby toys. Regulations are in place to keep a check on fake toys. Officials are prompt in raiding and seizing fake toys. But are these steps enough? Can retroactive steps reverse the damage done at a vulnerable age?
Do you know about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008? Did you know that all products targeting children need to comply with certain safety processes? The Consumer Product Safety Act 2008 sets certain safety protocols for all products for children. So toy manufacturers need to follow these processes:
- The product must pass the compliance test by a laboratory accredited by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- In general, be deemed safe for children
- The manufacturers should obtain a Children’s Product Certificate for the toy that shows evidence of safety compliance.
- Every product must have permanent tracking information on it.
Despite these compliance requirements, what happens in the grey market?
The toy industry is the second most impacted sector in global counterfeit. In terms of revenue loss, toy manufacturers lose 11% of their trade value to fakes. The online market has increased the risk of counterfeit toys. But COVID 19 has encouraged buyers to shop online, even for toys. Since the advent of online marketplaces, 52% of toy brands have seen an increase in fake toys. In 2019, counterfeit toys generated global revenue of 32.3 billion dollars in the US. In Europe, the number stood at 44.6 billion dollars.
What makes fake toys lucrative? What aspects of consumer behavior do we need to consider while tackling fake toys?
- The signs that a toy is fake become apparent after a while. It is next to impossible for buyers to understand the difference between genuine and fake toys at the time of purchase. Toy manufacturers spend a lot of time and effort in making their products attractive and safe. They study children’s psychology and developmental needs before releasing a product. If a toy starts falling apart, kids can swallow the tiny broken parts. Besides being a waste of money, substandard toys are a choking hazard. But replica toymakers have no consideration for these safety checks. Also, most buyers cannot identify a fake.
- Quality vs offers: Toys are expensive. In India, many kids do not have the luxury of owning new toys. When income is less and the product is expensive, people look only at discounts and offers. Fake toys and replicas are sold at a very low cost on e-commerce websites. People do not understand the unsaid and dangerous price they are paying for fake replicas.
- Customers underestimate the hazards of fake toys. The reasoning many buyers give is that kids are anyway going to outgrow the toy soon. Also, kids can rough-handle toys and break them easily. How many toys get misplaced because kids don’t take care of their belongings? So why buy expensive toys for kids? But here is a factoid that challenges the above argument. Many fake replica toys have toxic and heavy materials like lead and phthalates. When ingested, phthalates can damage your kids’ vital organs. Let’s take an example of the popular fur toy” the teddy bear. Kids have the habit of putting everything in their mouths. That is how they explore the world. So, brands adhere to strict safety standards while using colors, glue, and more. But a fake teddy bear can trigger severe respiratory issues due to the substandard quality of the fur.
- People prefer to buy toys from popular e-commerce websites. The entry barriers for sellers in online marketplaces are very low. So, it is advisable to buy from the websites owned by the toy brands, but that is not always a convenient option.
From detecting fakes to protecting against fakes: the boon of technology
As mentioned previously, in India children’s products need to have tracking markers. When it comes to toys, we need to understand that the market is huge. The toy trend is dominated by global giants like Marvel, Disney, and more. So, the global supply chain is complex. So beyond simple methods of tracking, we need to improve product visibility across the supply chain. Also, the market sees a sharp rise in demand during holiday seasons. It creates a sense of frenzy and urgency. No doubt, fake toymakers use the sudden rise in demand to their advantage. We know that most buyers cannot identify fake toys. But what can brands do to ensure that people are aware of the counterfeit market? What can buyers do once they suspect that a product is a fake replica?
- Anti-counterfeit technology like serialization, 2D codes, 3D codes, and, anti-counterfeit non-clonable labels are now used by major toymakers. Buyers can simply scan the codes to verify the toy’s authenticity. It is important to ensure that these codes integrate with packaging.
- Blockchain technology can improve supply-chain efficiency across online and offline markets.
- ACVISS offers customized brand building and consumer awareness programs that attack the counterfeit market while ensuring that the brand image of the product remains intact.
- Multi-layered loyalty management programs that encourage buyers to report fakes have many advantages. On one hand, it encourages customer engagement. On the other hand, it creates awareness about fake toys.
Keeping fakes in check is not just a check in the box. When it comes to the life, safety, and well-being of our future generation, we need to explore all possible options to act against fake toys.