Potential toy shortage could dampen holiday fun

Wed Nov 27, 2013 1:59pm EST
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By Chris Taylor

(Reuters) - Marine Putman got a taste of holiday craziness a tad early this year. Like, back in the first week of September.

That's when her 8-year-old daughter asked for a Rainbow Loom for Christmas. It was also when Putman learned that the toy, which is used to make rubber-band bracelets, was already out of stock in local stores.

And that's the rub. Concerned about consumer reluctance, many stores are ordering fewer toys, and some are already running out of what may be this year's favorites. That could leave many parents - especially the ones who are putting off shopping - at a loss.

"Manufacturers and retailers used to have plenty of inventory, but that doesn't happen anymore," says Laurie Schacht, co-publisher of The Toy Insider review guide. "They create just enough, so they don't take on too much risk. That means there will be shortages on top items."

Big chains such as Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us said they should be sufficiently stocked, but as of November 1, toy shipments from July to November to the United States were down 2 percent, compared with 2012, according to Panjiva, which tracks the data. That follows an almost 10 percent drop in 2012.

"Consumers are shopping later and later, and retailers don't want to be stuck with too much inventory," said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of TimetoPlayMag.com, a website that reviews children's toys, videogames and books.

Some independent toy stores interviewed by Reuters already are out of some select toys or expect to run out of them before Christmas.

Tons of Toys in Wyckoff, New Jersey, expects a run on Spin Master Ltd.'s Zoomer robotic dog toys and the Disney Doc McStuffins Get Better Check-Up Center, as well as new video game systems like Xbox One and PlayStation4. The Fun-est Toy Store Ever in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, says demand for the Rainbow Loom is "bananas," with lengthy waits for supply and waiting lists whenever product comes in.   Continued...

A woman shops at a Toy R Us store in Carle Place, New York in this November 23, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files