TORONTO - Zellers Inc., one of Canada's largest mass retail chains, has recalled plastic lawn chairs from Gracious Living Industries Inc., because many allegedly do not meet the supplier's usage guidelines. Zellers announced the recall June 12, claiming 17 percent of Gracious Living and Palm Beach Collection chairs did not meet the supplier's usage guidelines. Zellers said in-store accidents appeared to result from improper use of the chairs, but added ``some chair legs were found to spread and eventually collapse under weights of less than the 100 kilograms [220 pounds] cited by the manufacturer.''
Gracious Living also warns against using the chairs on glossy surfaces.
Gracious Living President Enzo Macri said he will think twice before doing business again with Zellers, which had 1994 sales of more than C$3.2 billion (US$2.3 billion). He said he thinks Zellers was unfair when it recalled and stopped selling plastic lawn chairs supplied by his Toronto firm in Gracious Living's first contract with Zellers.
Macri said his company hired testing and research firm Ortech Corp. of Mississauga, Ontario, for an independent study, which showed the chairs passed safety standards.
``We're not counting on [Zellers] for future business if they treat us like this,'' Macri said in a telephone interview. Macri said Zellers' public announcement hurt Gracious Living's reputation and that Zellers has not shared test results to help Gracious Living pinpoint any potential problem.
Macri said outside custom molders make its plastic outdoor furniture but he did not disclose their identity. His firm owns the chair molds and buys plastic resin for the molders.
The privately held firm has been in business for about 20 years and has annual sales of about C$25 million (US$18.3 million), mainly in plastic patio and garden furniture sold through major retailers.
Chris MacGregor, Zellers' vice president of hard lines, said his company sold about 46,000 of the chairs in question at its 293 stores across Canada. It will send any returned chairs back to Gracious Living.
MacGregor would not comment on Zellers' or Gracious Living's test results in a telephone interview last week from Zellers' head office in Montreal. The recalled chairs sold for C$4.77 (US$3.48) last spring. Zellers also sells plastic outdoor furniture with different price ranges from other, undisclosed manufacturers.
MacGregor said it is too late in the season to replace alleged defective chair lines with models from other companies.
Integrated Plastics Ltd. of Toronto formerly supplied plastic lawn chairs to Zellers. Integrated Plastics marketing manager Carmin Buonito said he thinks Gracious Living beat his firm on price for the Zellers' 1995 contract.
Buonito said his company will bid for Zellers' 1996 lawn chair business when negotiations begin in the next few months. He expects to bid again against Gracious Living, despite Macri's current feelings about Zellers.
Plastic chair sales have been good this year but high resin prices severely squeezed profit margins, Buonito said.
Zellers competes with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which entered the Canadian market a year ago.