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Heelys a headache for retailers

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The days of trying to grocery-shop as speeding blurs of
children pass by are over.
Food Lion LLC has initiated a “ No Heelys” policy,
banning the popular wheeled sneakers in their stores.
“ It was initiated as a safety precaution for customers,”
says Karen Peterson, corporate communication project
manager for the North Carolina-based grocer.
The ban originated due to complaints from individual
stores. A policy was then determined for the
company, which includes both Food Lion and
Bloom grocery stores.
According to Peterson, stores have not seen any
injuries yet.
“ We don’ t let grown adults (climb) into grocery
carts, either,” says Peterson. “ We certainly trust our
customers and hope they understand.”
Harold Christian, shareholder with Greenville
law firm Christian & Davis, agrees with Food Lion’ s
decision, citing the ban on Heelys as “ prudent for
“ It’ s basically, ‘ what kind of environment are they
allowing in the store?’ ” Christian says. “ Is it a safe place
to shop or not?”
Christian says the biggest concern for retailers is the
risk of a child on Heelys who injures a third party.
“ It’ s kind of like letting someone in a store with a
skateboard,” he says.
Texas-based Heelys Inc., which has sold more than 12
million pairs of shoes worldwide, provides plenty of
warnings for users.
“ Bans typically follow as we penetrate new areas,” says
Mike Staffaroni, CEO of Heelys “ We want to alert consumers
… and urge people to read the instructions.”
About a year ago, Toys ‘ R’ Us Inc. banned the shoes,
but later said the shoes were fine as long as the removable
wheel was taken out. Once the wheel is removed,
the shoe acts like an ordinary athletic sneaker.
Despite a surfeit of bans cropping up in retailers across
the nation, Staffaroni says the company knows of only
15 injuries that consumers have reported in the six years
they’ ve been selling Heelys.
“ We don’ t have a single injury-related lawsuit right
now,” says Staffaroni.
Christian cites the fear of legal action as the main reason
for the bans.
“ In general, we live in a society where there’ s been an
inflaming of people’ s fear of lawsuits and that’ s unreasonable,”
says Christian. “ But on the other hand, anytime
we can reduce harm to people, that’ s positive.”

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