Why are so many dolls now made in China?
I was asked by a lovely woman to write a newsletter about why so many dolls are now made in China. If you have comments or anything to add after you read this, please send them to email@example.com. I would love to hear from you! . I wanted to first give you a glimpse into the current factory situations in China and North America.
Current factory situation in China
China makes 80 percent of the toys sold worldwide. Most are made in Guangdong Province, where $12 billion worth of toys are produced every year and 1.5 million workers are employed in more than 6,000 toy factories.
Current factory situation in the USA and Canada
Do you know how many doll factories (vinyl) there are in the USA and Canada? The answer is NONE, with the exception of one factory located in Heltonville, Indiana. This company is called Turner Dolls and has been in business for 33 years. THEY ARE THE ONLY FACTORY LEFT IN THE USA AND CANADA! They used to turn out 500 custom dolls per year and now they make about 50 or less per year. My hat goes off to Turner Dolls for having the staying power. The owner of the company, Virginia Turner has been quoted as saying, “Made in the USA is wonderful, but you just can't compete. You can't compete with labor, materials, anything else”. I have attached a link for you to see a video on this company. See video. The Williamsburg Doll Factory in Virginia was also one of the remaining doll factories until they closed their doors in 2012 and retired.
So what are some of the reasons so many dolls and toys are made in China?
- There are no facilities currently available to even create a vinyl doll for you in the US or Canada with the exception of Turner Dolls, however they make their own dolls. I do not believe they contract doll manufacturing out for other companies;
- To start your own manufacturing facility and to create the moulds and tooling required would be thousands, even millions of dollars to build;
- China has six to eight thousand toy factories for you to choose from to make toys for you - so they make it easy for toy companies;
- The price point is acceptable. China creates so many dolls, that even though their labour is cheaper there, they still make money due to the volume;
- Their turn-around times are fast. Once you design a doll, a prototype can be created in 1-2 weeks and production can arrive at your door in 2 months;
- If you were to create dolls in the USA or Canada, they would be overpriced and only be “collector dolls”. This would not be a recipe for sustainability - so China has a competitive advantage; and,
- The USA and Canada do not have the tooling, equipment or experience/knowledge any longer to produce vinyl dolls.
Is having products created in China all bad?
Using China to manufacturer items of course has some pitfalls. They have been known to have factories that have bad work environments, long hours/overtime and low pay according to various sources (all over the internet). However, this is not the case of all factories. I think when choosing a factory you must be diligent when it comes to the choices you make as a manufacturer. There are some benefits to using China to produce products for us. According to a Forbes Magazine article in 2011, Baizhu Chen, a professor of clinical finance and business economics at USC Marshall School of Business, states that “Buying from China is in fact buying American”. He says, “In fact, a San Francisco Federal Reserve study has found that 55% of the value of American imported goods from China actually goes to American companies and workers. In comparison, American companies and workers only capture 36% of the value added of the import from all countries combined. Buying from China gives America a much better deal than buying from other countries in the world.”
He also states “With millions of Chinese working really hard to supply us with everything from Christmas ornaments to iPhones and enabling our companies to provide thousands of high paying jobs in America, we should be thankful."
Here is the link to the Forbes Magazine article by Baizhu Chen. Matchbox Dolls In addition, when comparing the cost of living in the US to China, it is cheaper to live in China in some aspects. You can see for some things (when looking at the cost of living link below), when compared in Chinese Yen currency, certain things cost less and some things cost more. The average salary is a lot less (about 5x), however food and transportation etc. costs a lot less there in comparison to the USA. So it makes sense that dolls are made overseas.
Our Stork Babies – Experience
With regards to our Stork Babies experience, my girls (ages 7, 11 and 12) and I started The Fiammetta Toy Company Inc. in 2012 and have been in business for 18 months. When we first investigated if we could get our “Stork Babies” made in Canada and the US, there was unfortunately NO options available to us. Even if we wanted to have them made here, there is no one left with the tooling equipment or facilities. And with a young family, doing it on our own dime, we could not afford to build a manufacturing facility with all the tooling and sewing required. That would take millions – which at this point we do not have. If in the future our company became “massive”, I would definitely consider it. In the future we will also be reviewing having our dolls made in Mexico, Brazil or Eastern Europe. I am not condoning having all our products made in China by any means, but as a small boutique toy company just starting, there are not a lot of other choices if we are to compete with the big boys. If you have anything further to add to this or any suggestions for manufacturers please email at firstname.lastname@example.org! Have an amazing day!