Steiff To Leave China Over Quality
July 02, 2008
BERLIN (Reuters) – Steiff, the firm that has made teddy bears for over a century, said on Wednesday it planned to move production back from China to Germany because poor standards there left some of its stuffed toys in a sorry state.
“If one of the glass eyes is even a millimetre off, it means the adorable devoted look on the teddy bear’s face ends up looking more like some kind of a stupid stare,” managing director Martin Frechen told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.
He told ZDF television the company had found it difficult during four years in China to maintain the quality of its expensive stuffed animals, toys and dolls because of high staff turnover.
“We had to keep training new people all the time, especially lately,” Frechen said. “More and more of the products were rejects.”
Among the Steiff stuffed animals — famous for the distinctive red button attached to their ears as a symbol of quality and higher prices — are “Knut” polar bear cubs, modelled on the bear in Berlin zoo that has become a celebrity.
Much of the world’s toy production has switched to China to take advantage of the cheapness of its labour costs and other overheads.
Frechen, however, said producing toys in China had appeared to make economic sense at first but turned out to be more costly, especially when logistics and a three-month shipping time to Germany were added to the calculation.
Steiff was founded by Margarete Steiff in the southern town of Giengen an der Brenz in 1880 and began producing teddy bears in 1902.
Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Andrew Roche