Consignment Shops Leery of New Federal Act

Friday, January 9th 2009, 6:04 pm
By: News 9

By Craig Day, for NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- New federal guidelines are expected to make children's toys and clothing safer.  But, there is concern the new requirements could negatively impact resale businesses like consignment and thrift stores. 

Kaye Hatley has spent 12 years in the consignment business.  Her store at 61st Street and Mingo Road in Tulsa offers a huge assortment at low prices.

"People depend on it.  They can't afford new clothes," said Hatley.

Hatley and many other resellers of children's clothing are concerned about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which goes into effect on February 10.

"The politicians, they said 'Sign this. It will protect the children.'  And, of course, they all sign it, and they don't think about the repercussions of what it's going to cause," Hatley said.

The new mandate requires the certification of newly manufactured children's clothing and toys as lead free, and prevents selling any that aren't.  So why are consignors worried?

Consignment store owner Ronda Vuillemont-Smith is the president of the Tulsa Area Resale Merchants Association.  She said many are concerned the new mandate would require re-sale stores and thrifts to test items on their racks.

"It needs to be at the manufacturer's level, the lead testing, so that it can be tested on a broader scale.  It's not economically feasible for us to be able to test every individual item," said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith.

After complaints, regulators decided secondhand stores are not required to certify that products on their shelves meet the new lead limits.

While resellers said the new ruling exempting them from the new testing mandates is a step in the right direction, it still doesn't give them peace of mind.  That's because shops could still face penalties if they sell an item that contains lead.

Store owners said the new safety guidelines are at the very least, confusing.

"I think their intentions were good, but I think they didn't foresee what the repercussions would be a little further down the line and how it would affect the mom and pop businesses," Vuillemont-Smith said.

Store owners hope anyone who shops at a resale shop, or thrift store will let their opinion be heard.  They have a sample letter to send to Congressional leaders on their Web site.