Dumb Laws Force Kids to Go Naked, Shut Down Small Businesses
OK, maybe naked is an exaggeration. But small companies are bailing out of the children's clothing business, thanks to a dumb batch of regulations put into place in 2009. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Nancy Nord writes that:
At least some apparel manufacturers are opting to exit the children's market rather than brave our labyrinthine minefield of children's product rules. These requirements, which are arcane to trained lawyers and incomprehensible to most other people, have also forced micro-businesses focused on children's clothing to cut back or to shut down completely. Thanks to our staff, we knew this sort of thing was coming, and with little if any benefit, but my colleagues decided to forge ahead anyway.
In another post, she tells stories from some trade conferences:
One small business owner, with fewer than 10 employees, told me of needing to add an employee to do nothing but administer and document his testing and regulatory compliance program. Another told me that since children's garments were not a major part of his business, he has decided just to get out of that aspect of the business altogether rather than have to hassle with all the rules.
Products destined for children have long been subject to aggressive regulation, but the biggest bugaboo these days is 2009's Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which bans lead and phthalates in toys, books, clothes, and any other object intended for children under 12.
The law was designed to require additional testing for children's toys after a 2007 scare over contaminants in Chinese-made Mattel toys. But overly broad language and strict testing and labeling requirements meant the law wound up seriously hurting the market in second-hand children's books, making charitable giving of secondhand stuffed animals tougher, putting motorbike manufacturers out of business, squelching the market in handmade wooden toys, taking popular children's jewelry off the shelves, and more.
And now your kid is going to be naked—or worse, have to wear shmattes from some kind of big box chain that can afford all the extra testing and labeling. Once again, regulations designed to rein in the big guys wind up hurting little guys—literal and metaphorical.