I make no apologies for returning to the subject of the spinner craze – in fairness, it’s pretty much all people are talking about right now.
And every time we run another story about the craze online, our daily traffic goes through the roof; there is unquestionably an appetite for information, especially as the situation is changing so rapidly.
Earlier this week we focused on supply issues, exacerbated by an inevitable shortage of bearings and the escalating cost of these integral components. A mere two days later, the story has evolved into a concern over faulty – and in some cases, potentially dangerous – products coming onto the market. It is widely known that a large number of spinners are coming into the country that have not been tested and have no CE mark. As you would expect, many of these are finding their way to the darker corners of the supply chain, such as market stalls and the dodgier cash ‘n’ carries.
This, in itself, is no great surprise. When demand is so huge and so sudden, corners get cut: factories are sub-contracting and even the sub-contractors are sub-contracting, so quality becomes extremely difficult to control. Bearing factories are emptying warehouses of product that has potentially been lying around there for ages, hence the proliferation of rusty bearings (although, thankfully, this problem appears to be drying up now). In addition, every Chinese factory with an injection-moulding machine is jumping on the bandwagon, including many second and third-tier factories that have little or no experience in this area. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s by no means just a safety issue either. One major retailer told me that it had tested a large batch of spinners not just for safety (EN71 and phthalates), but also for spin time: 80% failed and were rejected. Presumably those spinners are now being offered to other suppliers or retailers; I wonder how many will be equally as diligent in checking their validity?
So how is Trading Standards dealing with the situation? Good question. Very good question. A few weeks ago, I referred to ‘chocolate fire guard’ official bodies in the Blog. Perhaps I should have included Trading Standards amongst my examples? Suppliers have complained to their local authorities, but are finding the response indifferent to say the least. While the new localised strategy works on some levels, it is a huge hindrance in others; essentially, it makes it far too easy for them to pass the buck (“sorry, not my patch guv’nor”). The lack of a co-ordinated national response, along with the fact that they seem determined to complicate matters as much as is humanly possible, is a source of huge frustration to many. Retailers and suppliers have pointed out that while Trading Standards can be quick to hammer legitimate companies (because, as one put it, “they know where we live, so it’s so much easier”), their inability to tackle the problem when it affects more nefarious traders is disappointing to say the least.
While the TSO plays ‘pass the (buck) parcel’, I gather that at least Customs has been rather more effective, apparently detaining large shipments at various UK and international airport hubs while checks are completed.
Ultimately, no-one wants the category – or the industry – tarnished. Hopefully all legitimate suppliers and retailers will adopt the ‘buyer beware’ mantra and make sure that they are offering product that doesn’t just pass safety standards, but meets acceptable functionality and performance standards too. And hopefully the Trading Standards officers will rise to the challenge, take responsibility (i.e. do their job) and actually go after the dodgy parties with the appropriate degree of urgency and diligence. That doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it?
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the Toymaster show in Harrogate next week. The portents are good: the weather seems set fair, suppliers have no doubt put together some fantastic deals and indies should have a few quid to spend (unless they have missed the spinner craze completely…there must be such a contrast in the cash going through the tills of retailers who decided against getting involved), so it promises to be a good week. I’ll let you know next Friday if it lives up to expectations.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this: is it just me or is it one of the freakiest things ever? Personally I think it looks more like Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown reincarnated as a squirrel with no trousers on than Squirrel Nutkin. As Donald Trump would say, ‘Bad’.