Phebe is best known for her whimsical, creative plush toys that have been a part of children’s lives for twenty-seven years.

From 1983-2010, Phebe delighted customers at Neiman Marcus, FAO Schwartz, Michael’s Stores and many others with her creative designs.

The characters you love are no longer available because of changes to the toy industry, created by the U.S. Government, resulting in testing fees and regulations that now make Phebe’s merchandise too expensive to produce and sell.  Her designs and the designs of many other small, specialized companies are no longer available because they are simply too expensive to produce in the small volume that keeps special merchandise special. For more detail click on the tab below titled “What Happened to the Toys” or watch her commencement speech given at Texas Woman’s University.

Currently, No Phebe Characters are available for sale.  Below is Phebe’s letter to you.

UPDATED April 8, 2013.

I first wrote about this November 1, 2009.  While the existing new laws have changed a bit to ease this stress, it still greatly impacts my creativity and personally, while still very, very sad about the toys, I have begun to adapt.               

When rumors of intense toy regulations first appeared on the industry radar-screen, I and everyone else I spoke with thought it couldn’t possibly be as devastating as it was. Although there had not yet been anything released regarding costs, depth of mindless regulation and strangulation, I never expected my known, existing and much loved world to change…and die.   As early as age ten, I can remember wanting to create characters.  My information came early one morning, Fall  2008, as I sat in bed and checked the overnight emails on my blackberry.  The email, composed factually and concisely, from my factory overseas informed me of the costs of this ruling to my products.  Staggering, unbelievable costs as Angela, owner of the factory that made my products, expressed they had been working behind the scenes to try to find alternative measures before sending me this email as a last resort. With the click of a pen belonging to an uninformed President with good intentions, a signature put into motion senseless, redundant testing with no alternative and no benefit to the greater good of children.  I was so shocked, I screamed causing my husband to run into the room…then so sickened, I threw up.  Much like death…here one second, gone the next.  My world changed in an email.

As the ruling unveiled itself, I had support and backup from my husband and friends, but I still shudder to think what it would have been like to deal with this as a single mother.  What if this had been your business and this happened?  How would you live? How would you take care of your children?  Well, I know it did happen to a few and probably many more that I do not know of.  I can only speak from my own experience and I will do so now, as it may be my last opportunity…life is moving on!   Over the lifespan of my business, I had the joy of selling to FAO Schwartz, I-Magnin, Horchow, Jacobson’s, Victoria Secret, J.C. Penney, Sears, Michael’s Stores many boutiques, gift shops, hospital gift shops and my love, Neiman Marcus who purchased my designs from day one to the closing of the last day merchandise could be sold, before being fined a $10,000.00 fee to both them and me as CPSIA’s regulations hit their deadline.  From that day to the day of this writing, I have not set foot in an NM Children’s Department…I just can’t.   I created, from my very creative imagination, annual revenue in excess of $3,000,000.00 and through the years $1,200,000.00 raised for charity. My designs employed loyal, hardworking seamstresses that had been with me since almost day one.  They bought and paid for homes on the success of these designs.  Designs which were sought by Heads of Industry, Hollywood Stars, Ambassadors, overnighted to Arab Sheiks, special ordered to be buried with children that fate took way too soon and for seventeen years decorated and greeted kids at The White House Easter Egg Roll.  Most important of all they were sought by YOU, my customer, to be presented during your special holidays, birthdays, life events and those who had your new baby’s birth information or special events in your life written on the footpad.  They adorned your Easter basket, sat under your Christmas tree, celebrated Hanukkah, rode home in the backseat of the car with your new baby and were presented at cherished birthdays and events.  They tolerated wearing ridiculous hats for tea parties, being snugged up at night, thrown-up on during sickness and were the keepers of your dearest secrets.  My life has forever changed because I designed a product you liked so much you chose it as a special gift for a significant event in your family.  It is an honor to be a part of your history.

Currently and sadly, there is nothing available for sale.  I still hear from many customers inquiring about why my characters are not in stores.  So, here’s the story:  In August 2008, President Bush signed CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) into action.  It is an end-component test of ALL products marketed to a child age twelve and under regardless of where it is made.  It affects products made in all of Asia, India, Europe, the U.S., anywhere in the world and yes, even in your own sewing room at home…if your intention is to market or sell to a child age twelve and under.  Now, what is an end-component test and why is there not a “Phebe” available for sale?  It more than doubles, and in some styles, triples the cost of my toys!  When this was first signed into action, in 2008, it was an approximate $300.00 per component test with components meaning any thread, fabric or color change involved in my designs.  Some pieces have as many as 20 to 40 components…so, you do the math!  I always ordered in small volumes to keep integrity of design, low inventory, fresh merchandise and my availability limited and special to my stores and customers…so, the combination of small volume and high components causes a drastic change in my pricing.

Since 1983, when my company started, my toys have always been tested in top-notch labs, also used by other well-known brands, to the current standards of the testing year. At the time, the costs were always several hundred dollars per style.  The new CPSIA ruling now makes testing costs as high as ten-thousand dollars or more per large size style as in Dancing Tutulina Rose Rabbit or Dancing Dandy Dog Dakota.  This test is not done just once on the toy style, but on each batch reordered even if the exact same fabrics from the original bolts of fabric are used.  So, to answer the question; Why are there no Phebe characters available for sale?  Simply stated, I just do not have the volume of sales to support the quantity that I need to produce to absorb this cost and keep my retail prices in the range that you are accustomed to.

For reference, there was a story in the Dallas newspaper about an educational toy company, twenty-something-years in business, absolutely no problems EVER…and now under these new regulations, it is over a year of their revenue just to test.

So, Why Did CPSIA Happen?  It happened as a reaction to tainted lead in toys made by Mattel.  Do not misunderstand, I am in full agreement with and punishment for producing products of inferior, life-changing-ending, devastating poor quality.  I am also in favor of controlling the monopoly of big-box stores against manufacturers, but that is another letter.  I can only write what has been told to me.  As I tell this, keep in mind I am incorporating my knowledge of selling to big-box stores and the story told to me of the event that changed toy manufacturing.

When you sell a product to a big-box store it has a window of time, a two-to-three week period that the product can arrive to the store’s distribution center.  The store has blocked time and labor for this merchandise to arrive and get distributed to the store shelves.  Sales have been planned beginning at the time merchandise hits the store shelf.  If a manufacturer misses this time window, charge-backs are levied and fines taken from invoice payments without any to very little negotiation between the manufacturer and the big-box store.  One big-box store only allows three missed windows and when I say missed window, I mean one day past the end date of the ship window; the first window of missed shipping has a $10,000.00 fine, the second window of missed shipping has a $100,000.00 fine and the third and final has a $1,000,000.00 fine.

As told to me, the incident with Mattel involved a respected, long time manufacturer for them.  The manufacturer ran out of paint for the toy.  Faced with the reality of missing this shipping window and incurring large charge-back fines for Mattel, fines that Mattel would pass onto him or going to buy more paint, he chose to go to the paint store in his city in China and buy children’s room paint to finish the project.  As you might expect in this country, he expected in his…children’s room paint should be safe, right?  Well, in this case, not so.  I would like to add that there are only a few labs in the world that a toy company can safety test in and receive certification.  Oh, there are many labs, but only a specific few that are designated for recognized certification.  No matter, how big your brand is, you still have to wait your turn for testing in these designated labs.  So, here is this factory owner faced with being out of needed paint, no time to get new paint tested, a large charge-back looming if he missed the deadline…so, he made what he thought was a safe choice.  He purchased children’s room paint and finished the job, met the deadline of Mattel and the big-box store and all was going to be well, but it wasn’t.  The product got sold to a consumer, the paint was tainted, the consumer suffered devastating health consequences and the factory owner, upon learning all this committed suicide.  Our President, needing to look like our government cares, signed into action a reactionary law that does not address the core problem, but it does make a lot of money for the government agency enforcing it.  Almost any mid-size to small toy company was wiped out.

Unfortunately, the companies that started the problem are so big and mass market, that they can absorb the cost and go on.  The very companies that caused the problems are the only ones that can afford to sustain themselves through the problem.  However, because smaller companies cannot absorb this cost, the customer is left with less selection of artistic, creative products and worst of all many moms with dreams of new, inventive products will have a difficult challenge bringing their designs to the world!  Many small and special companies have taken a break to figure out how to deal with the costs and how this will pass onto YOU the customer or like me, they have adapted and moved to new ventures.  On a personal note, I was showing my toy archive photos to someone the other day and their response was; “Oh, your toys were very old-fashioned. You don’t have any high-tech, talking monsters.”  I thought to myself, “True, I don’t have any computer-chipped monsters, but where has sweetness gone?”  We truly are in a time when new generations will never know the quality and specialness of not only my products, but other products that were made in small quantities with impeccable workmanship, integrity and specialness.  We see this mass-race-mind in the products we purchase and it is now emerging in the food we eat…don’t even get me started.

Why Piper the Puppy for the American Red Cross meets CPSIA and my toy line does not.

It is not an issue of meeting CPSIA requirements.  It is an issue of costs.  My toy line has low volume and a high number of components.  This combination drives the costs up.  Piper the Puppy has very limited components and high volume.  It works!  Piper the Puppy meets all CPSIA requirements.

What am I currently doing?

In Summer 2008, before CPSIA started, I began taking classes in Science to explore the subject of health and nutrition, a topic that has been a long-time interest to me.  In a combination of two things; a long time yoga class that introduced me to meditation and passing words spoken by Dr. Ann Stuart, President and Chancellor of Texas Woman’s University, my world opened to a new direction.

About ten years ago, I began a yoga class that opened each session with fifteen minutes of meditation.  I really disliked the meditation, but loved the exercise of the yoga.  In a twist of events, the teacher stopped teaching that class.  I found that I missed the meditation, not the exercise, so I began to put meditation into my life each morning and evening at home.  To my surprise, as my practice deepened, I found that what I ate greatly affected the quality of my meditation.  Sugar, processed food and alcohol were in my way!  We lived in a high rise and my new neighbor, Dr. Ann Stuart, had become my friend.  She was aware that I read health, nutrition and food magazines.  One day, my arm was stacked with newly received magazines when we passed each other in the hallway.  I will never forget this moment…she looked back at me and said, “Phebe, why don’t you study it instead of reading articles about it.”  The words resonated and circled round and round my head for months.  Five months later, I began classes.  The idea of Real Life Simple revealed itself clearly in meditation.  For more information, check out the Real Life Simple tab on this site.

Will the toys ever come back?

I hope the toys come back one day.  I enjoy creating Piper the Puppy for individual chapters of the American Red Cross.  I enjoy the knowledge that Piper raises a lot of money for a wonderful cause and I really enjoy knowing that my design gets into the hands of children that need them.

I always wrote character profiles on my toy designs and kept them in a desk drawer. Five of the stories are developed.  I am actively seeking a Literary Agent to help me shepherd these characters into the world in a storybook format.  As this develops I hope that the book characters, many you know from past lines, will be reproduced in a licensed format by a responsible toy company.  These are my hopes!

With friendship,
Phebe

Posted April 8, 2013

Product Care

Phebe Phillips animals can be washed. We do not suggest it, but in extreme situations it can be done. Animals with clothing accessories sewn in (i.e. Tutus) must be surfaced washed.

RULES

FIRST, try to surface wash with mild soap and a warm cloth or soft brush. Rinse well. Place in sun to air dry.
IN EXTREME CASES the animal can be placed in a washing machine. Put the animal in a pillowcase so the eyes do not scratch against the metal tub. Use a very small amount of mild soap. COLD WATER ONLY.  Air dry outside or in a window…for days.
CAUTIONS

If animal is given a full soaking, sometimes the inside stuffing does not dry completely resulting in a possible mildew problem. (This is why we do not recommend washing, except in extreme cases.)
Do not put in a hot dryer. Hot air will ruin (melt) the fabric. USE NO HEAT.
*Any questions email to phebe@phebephillips.com.


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