Flipping through a 40-page toy catalog, a shopper might think they’ve just spotted the perfect gift for that future Steph Curry on the list. A $50 pro basketball hoop that hangs over a door and has cool LED lights and electronic scoring.
One small problem: The hoop never came into the store for early holiday sales as was expected when the catalog was being designed in the spring. A $50 remote control robot is missing in action, too, in the supply chain tie-ups.
“I’m still waiting for him,” said Nori Klar, owner of Toyology Toys, which has stores in downtown Royal Oak, the Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield and the Bloomfield Plaza in Bloomfield Hills.
Several items, even though they were ordered back in June, are still not on the shelves.
On the plus side, Klar said, the shelves at her stores don’t look empty, like they might at a big box retailer, because she’s able to be flexible and move inventory around easily, if necessary. And some toys keep trickling in. She’s also benefited after she ordered early to compensate for any shortages.
“I am able to fill my shelves unlike the big box (stores) that have a planogram and shelf space held for each item, which may not show up,” Klar said. Retailers use a planogram to detail how specific products should be displayed in a store to increase visual appeal.
Klar’s hoping, in fact, that her toy stores might pick up some new business as some shoppers look for unique ideas at smaller retailers in the community if they can’t find what they want in a bigger store. Many customers, she said, already want to shop at independent stores that have educational and fun toys. The store also has a website for shopping online at www.toyologytoys.com.
“More people are shopping local because we’ve been there for them,” Klar said. The store plans a 20% off sale Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
Where are the holiday trouble spots?
Three little words could upend holiday joy during the gift buying season: “Out of stock.”
But three more words could help shoppers keep their sanity: “Just be flexible.”
The No. 1 category where consumers might spot the out of stock message is electronics.
That’s followed by jewelry, apparel, home and garden and pet supplies and treats, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. The analysis covers more than 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites.
Some consumers will tell you that they’re spotting some shortages on some hot toys, too.
Some popular toys so far on the list are: Pop Fidget toys, which seem to be everywhere; Got2Glow Fairy Finder, and the Bluey toy line, which is based on a popular TV show for preschoolers.
Top electronics and devices include the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset, the PlayStation 5, the new Nintendo Switch OLED Model and Xbox Series S.
So if you’ve got your heart set on ordering a certain robot or even a particular pink sweater, well, you might be shocked Black Friday or Cyber Monday to discover that it’s now out of stock and possibly on back order.
If you find it, the ongoing advice is, do not expect it to be there closer to Christmas.
“Now is the time to buy the things you know you want,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.
Given the shopping challenges ahead, it’s a perfect time once again to realize that we’re not playing a holiday version of “The Price is Right” here. The holidays should be about a great deal more than just expecting Santa to yell “Come on Down.”
Now more than ever, be prepared for some let down: The box you unwrap might just contain a gift card.
“As a gift receiver, be forgiving of your gift giver,” Schreiner said.
Some gifts just aren’t available
In just October alone, consumers were hit by well above 2 billion out-of-stock messages online, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. In Jan 2020, shoppers saw just under 1 billion out-of-stock messages online.
As e-commerce demand picks up, experts say, shoppers are feeling the crunch from ongoing supply chain constraints and finding it tougher in some cases to find bargains.
The prevalence of out-of-stock messages rose 250% in October 2021, when compared with January 2020, before the pandemic hurt global economies. When compared to two holiday seasons ago or October 2019, it is up 325%.
The out-of-stock stumbling block can be blamed on the ongoing supply chain disruptions, which began when the pandemic hit.
“I thought 2021 would be better than 2020 in terms of supply chain issues but it’s not. It’s worse,” Schreiner said.
Shoppers will remember that last holiday season was no picnic when it came to finding the perfect gift. This year, the prevalence out of stock messages in October was up 33% from October 2020, according to Adobe.
The supply chain headaches have been well documented since at least the fall so many have been shopping earlier online and at the malls, according to various surveys.
And one holiday is a bit sooner on the calendar this year. Hanukkah begins on Nov. 28, which is nearly two weeks earlier than 2020 when the eight-day festival of lights started on Dec. 10.
Some early shoppers told me they were able to order some gifts online in November, and things seemed OK, but then they received an email the next day saying there would be shipping delays.
How to shop like a winner
How much you enjoy shopping will depend as much on your attitude as the supply chain.
Some tried-and-true tips can make sense:
Double check that list. Write down what you’ve actually bought so far. Buying early and often does run the risk of forgetting what you’ve bought and possibly spending too much.
Figure out a Plan B. Would someone welcome a gift card to a favorite store, restaurant or entertainment venue? What else might you give if you can’t find the exact gift on the list? If possible, ask family and friends to give you some options for that holiday list.
Can you live with a slightly higher price? Think about if you really need to wait to get the best deal on all those gifts. Could you save money overall by simply buying three or four fewer gifts if prices seem out of whack?
Is it time to ditch the fancy gifts? Maybe some members of the family would welcome taking a break from traditional gift giving. Is it time to try a quirky idea? One family I know likes to give “used gifts” or things they don’t need at home or items they can easily find at a thrift shop. But remember the Dollar Tree announced plans in October to sell some items at $1.25 or $1.50.
Don’t bet on free shipping. Consumers who are buying gifts and having them shipped directly to friends and loved ones in other states may want to buy earlier than in the past in order to save some money.
“As you get past Cyber Monday, free shipping is going to go away faster than we’ve ever seen before,” Schreiner said.
Even small Hallmark items face delays
By all means, be realistic about how often you might run into a glitch.
Sometimes, the shortages are a small time annoyance — not a major holiday supply disruption.
Hallmark, for example, sent out a postcard notice to some customers regarding promotional gifts with purchases during its VIP Holiday Open House, which was set for Nov. 12 through Nov. 21. “We’re sorry, shipping challenges have affected the availability of our Holiday VIP Gifts.”
As a result, the postcard said, those who spent $75 or more during the November open house would need to bring in the postcard or an earlier postcard offer to receive a rain check to pick up a free gift from Dec. 13 through Dec. 24.
“Like many companies, we are dealing with supply chain challenges, which delayed the gifts,” said JiaoJiao Shen, public relations and social media director for Hallmark.
But she said Hallmark is finding solutions to get the VIP gifts to its retailers so customers will be able to start picking them up as early as Dec. 1.
Hallmark is optimistic that shoppers will find what they want in stores or online for most items.
“The vast majority of our greeting cards and all of our wrapping paper are made at our plants in Lawrence and Leavenworth, Kansas,” Shen said.
“Across all of our product categories, more than 90% of our products are ready to be shipped from our Missouri distribution center, are in-transit, or already at our retail locations,” she said.
Adobe’s Schreiner said shoppers may need to be more flexible in how they shop and they should try to be patient.
It’s possible, he said, that what doesn’t arrive in time for Black Friday could end up on the shelves by mid-December, if there’s some let up in the bottlenecks in transportation.
Some Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals might not be as deep
Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to be huge shopping days. Looking only at online sales, shoppers are expected to spend $9.5 billion on Black Friday and $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe.
Yes, there will be sales but maybe the discounts won’t be as good as last year either. And yes, some prices overall have gone up.
Despite earlier deals this season, Adobe noted that discounts have been considerably weaker in electronics, where discount levels are at 8.7% compared with 13.2% at this point last year.
Adobe looked at Nov. 6 prices relative to Oct. 1 for the 2021 and 2020 discount levels.
Sporting goods, which may be facing supply chain disruptions, saw discounts averaging around 2.8% compared with 11.2% last year.
Tools and home improvement are seeing no discounts at all, according to Adobe, with prices up 1.2%. That compares with a 6.8% discount last year.
Oddly enough, though, toys still had been doing well when it comes to sales and deals.
Toys have been seeing bigger discounts at 15.9% compared with 7.5% in 2020.
But again, we’re talking about average discounts.
Klar — who had to close a fourth location at The Village of Rochester Hills because she couldn’t fine enough employees to reopen — said toy prices in general are up around 10% from a year ago, reflecting higher costs for workers and shipping bottlenecks.
Not all prices at her store are higher, she said, because she bought some items earlier before some price hikes hit.
As for the deeper discounts, Schreiner said, some retailers could be trying to grab early sales on toys that are fun but not necessarily the next new cool thing for the holidays.
“It doesn’t mean that right now, you’re going to have all the hot toys on shelves and available,” Schreiner said.