Hoverboards, the hands-free, self-balancing scooters that were a holiday phenomenon, have become a hot potato for retailers.
For the second time in a little more than two months, Target Corp. has pulled them from its website. The halt came Monday after the government warned last week that hoverboards, which have developed a troubling record of catching fire, could be subject to recall or seizure if they do not comply with new safety standards. Wal-Mart followed suit on Tuesday.
Lee Henderson, a Target spokesman, said the retailer “paused the sale” of the Swagway and the Razor Hovertrax — the two models of hoverboards that had been for sale on Target.com — while it reviews the new guidelines.
“We take product safety very seriously at Target and are proactively working with our vendors to ensure they are compliant with these new safety standards and certification protocol,” he said in an e-mail.
In addition, Target is giving customers who have purchased one of those products the option to return them.
The Minneapolis-based company was the second major retailer to temporarily stop sales of the popular gadgets amid the recent regulatory pressure. Over the weekend, Toys ‘R’ Us also stopped selling the Razor Hovertrax.
Wal-Mart confirmed late Tuesday that it has also pulled hoverboards from its website, saying that it will not sell them until those suppliers can prove they comply with the new guidelines.
Eden Prairie-based Evine Live was one of the early sellers of the Swagway, which often sold out last fall when the home shopping network promoted it on TV.
It was not available for sale on its website on Tuesday, though a carrying case for it was. Company officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Hoverboards first popped onto the scene early last year and quickly became popular after celebrities like Justin Bieber were seen riding them. Retailers hustled to get their hands on them in time for the holidays while trying to quickly wade through various supply issues as well as a host of patent and safety concerns. The online marketplace was quickly flooded with dozens of different models, some of them of questionable quality.
As reports of hoverboards catching fire began to circulate, some airlines and college campuses banned them.
The main source of the issue is the lithium-ion batteries inside them are more powerful than those used in other gadgets.
In a letter to manufacturers and retailers last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said that hoverboards that do not meet the new safety standards pose an “unreasonable risk of fire” and could lead to serious injury or death.
Since Dec. 1, the agency said it has received 52 reports of hoverboards catching fire, resulting in $2 million in property damage, including two homes that were destroyed.
On Tuesday, Amazon.com still had several different models available for sale. But last month, the online giant offered full refunds to customers who purchased a hoverboard from it because of the safety concerns.
Best Buy never jumped into the hoverboard fray in the U.S. because of safety issues and a variety of other factors.
As for Target, it has not sold the self-balancing scooters in stores, just on its website.
In mid-December, as concerns about hoverboards first began to mount, Target.com briefly stopped selling them for about a day while the company ensured they had the proper safety documentation. It resumed sales soon after.
Still, despite the headlines about the fire hazard, hoverboards have continued to be popular with consumers.
“From a pop culture conversation, hoverboards were one of the must-have gifts” during the holidays, said Henderson. “We saw a lot of guests ask for them and purchase them. That interest has continued well beyond the holiday season.”