That’s what bugs me the most about all the regulatory changes in the last 10 years. They’re making a more homogeneous marketplace.
What do I mean? It obviously only makes sense for companies to get into compliance products that are selling well enough to justify the additional expense (actually, products that they think will continue to sell well enough once the price goes up to account for the expense of compliance). This means companies – particularly smaller ones – will be cutting their less profitable product lines in favor of their most profitable product lines.
One could argue that this is just good business sense, as well – except that the regulatory environment discourages companies from taking risks on new products.
What we’re going to end up with is a marketplace full of only what’s most popular right now – wraps, mei tais, and ring slings – with less popular carriers available from an ever-decreasing number of makers.
As an example: I’ve kept Podegis available as custom-made items for the last 8 years, since I sold my last instock Pod. They’re not super popular. But they are a niche product. Some people REALLY like them. The last Pod I made was for a customer who contacted me with this: “I’m so happy I found you!! I wore out my first Podegi a few months ago and have been looking for a replacement, but so few people make them! I love my Podegis and prefer them to any other carrier, and I was sad thinking I might not be able to replace the one I wore out.” (OK, that’s a paraphrase, I didn’t actually keep the email.)
But now, because it doesn’t make any kind of sense to shell out the money to bring Pods into compliance with ASTM regulations, since I sell about 2 a year, I’m dropping them from my product line-up.
Same thing with pouches (which you can still get on our clearance page). They’ve fallen out of favor. But many people still love them, and still more people love them once they have a chance to try them. But because they’ve been unpopular for the last 2-3 years, I don’t sell enough to justify the cost of compliance. So I’m dropping them.
And because of the huge expense involved in compliance before I could ever bring them back to the market again, I’m not likely to ever be able to offer pouches again.
And most smaller makers are in the same boat. Sure, if you’re pulling in tens of thousands of dollars a year like the “big name” brands are, you can take a risk on a product that might be less popular. (Though in the babywearing world, most of the big name brands aren’t taking risks, either.) But if you’re pulling in considerably less than that, risking $500 on a new product is… well, it’s risky.
So I, and countless others, are becoming stores that sell the same three products: Wraps, Mei Tais, and Ring Slings. (Most stores add SSCs to that list, but I don’t generally like them so I don’t sell them.)
It’s also creating a homogeneous marketplace in that it limits customization. Do you want your custom Mei Tai with a slightly shorter body? Slightly wider body? Contoured body? You want the waistband wider? Narrower? Seat darts? Too bad. Because each of these modifications changes the relationship of the carrier to the baby and the wearer, they’re changes that would require another round of testing at the lab. ($500.)
And again, while larger businesses with a greater volume are going to be testing each of these variables, smaller businesses are forced to either cut these options or continue to offer them and hope they don’t get “caught.”
The end result is fewer choices for you, the consumer.
And I’m not convinced the end result is actually going to be safer carriers. This process would definitely have weeded out the terrible Infantino bag carriers that killed several babies. But it will NOT be addressing the many hundreds of small sellers who either don’t know or don’t care about the new regulations. I’ve personally talked to a few babywearing makers who have told me that they’re aware that there are regulations, but they haven’t bought them and they don’t intend to. They just assume their carriers are safe and they tell their customers they’re safe. One actually advertises that their carriers are in compliance – and how is the consumer to know the difference?
Less choice, no better safety. Sounds great.