Retailers have been encouraging parents to buy toys for Christmas as soon as possible. This year, you might want to listen, experts say.
Supply chain disruptions could make finding this year's hot holiday toys a little more challenging. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to find exactly what you need, says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. "This is one of the products that will be scarce in coming months," she says.
Because inventory in stores is lean, you also might not be able to wait for typical last-minute discounts. This year, most retailers will have no issue selling their entire stock at or close to full price. "We are telling parents and gift-givers of all kinds to budget more for toys this year because toy prices are increasing for sure," says Ali Mierzejewski, the editor in chief of Toy Insider.
The organization recently released its annual list of hot holiday toys likely to drive demand. This year's picks include the L.O.L. Surprise! OMG House of Surprises, Pokémon Trading Card Game: Celebrations Elite Trainer Box, and Tamagotchi Pix, among others.
Here are some steps you can take that will increase your chances of getting everything on your kid's holiday wish list.
"We are suggesting consumers shop way earlier for toys this year," Mierzejewski says. "I would say as early as now." That will help you avoid two trouble spots: lean store inventory and slow shipping for online orders.
Two-day shipping or overnight shipping will be less reliable this year than in years past, she says: "It is really important that if you're shopping online to not assume things will be delivered on time."
In stores, there is likely to be a second wave of inventory arriving during November, but it is "up in the air" what and how much will be stocked, she says.
"Once the hottest toys sell out, there is no guarantee they will be in stock before the holiday," she says. "Anything that is a must, must-have on your list, I'm recommending you buy as soon as you see it on the shelf."
This advice is especially important to heed if you're a last-minute shopper, Ramhold of DealNews.com adds. "Shopping in December is going to be really risky this year, not just because of delays in getting your stuff, but because of retailers' ability to restock throughout December, "she says. "Stuff that sells out early might not come back in stock in time for you to buy it for the holidays."
"In-stock alerts might not be 100% accurate this year," Mierzejewski says. "It's always best to talk to stores directly this year, especially if you do in-store pickup."
Calling stores in your area can not only help you find what you need but also cut down on driving time and gas costs.
Casting a wider net by involving friends and family in the shopping process increases your chances of finding that hot toy your kid wants. "Have kids make their list to Santa so you can be sure to share it with friends and family so everyone can be on the lookout," Mierzejewski says.
What isn't in stock near you might be in stock a couple towns over.
"Local toy stores are more direct to the manufacturer and will be well-stocked with toys," Mierzejewski says.
When you contact a local toy store, as opposed to a big box chain like Walmart or Target, the person answering your call or email might also be the person ordering inventory. "Usually someone working there is the owner of the toy store," she says. They will have more control and a better picture of what they are selling.
Even better, the money you spend at a local toy shop goes back to the community, Mierzejewski says: "You're supporting local business with your purchase."
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