As you plan your holiday programs this year, it’s important to stay abreast of the business conditions in the global supply chain. Analysts are predicting a potentially severe toy shortage this holiday season. We may start seeing these shortages as early as September (Marketwatch), caused by 2-4 week delays in shipping. The main reasons for these delays include:
- Container shortage and shipping delays, primarily from China.
- COVID related issues: manufacturers digging out of pandemic-induced financial issues and new outbreaks causing disruptions and employee shortages around the globe.
In speaking directly with some of our supplier partners, we get a similar picture. Acting fast will ensure that orders will be fulfilled in time for the holidays, with the expected brands and quantities. Failure to order ahead could mean limited options or higher prices.
Why A Shortage Is Expected
Shipping bottlenecks this year have severely hindered toy manufacturers’ ability to deliver products in a timely manner. Due to shipping container shortages and halts in manufacturing caused by COVID-19 outbreaks, supply-side delays are likely to result in shortages of the most popular toys of 2021. Holiday toys typically appear on shelves starting in October to appeal to early shoppers, but this year, supply may be short and/or inconsistent.
The competition for container space has caused the price of shipping containers to significantly increase. Large toy companies such as Hasbro and Mattel have long standing relations with manufacturers and have an edge in the buyout of shipping containers. Smaller, independent toy companies will struggle to find container space and their ability to supply the market during the crucial holiday season will suffer as a result. With inflated shipping costs, it is expected that the retail price of toys may rise as well during the holiday shopping season. The resurgence of the pandemic has also caused temporary shutdowns of manufacturing plants which are typically located in China. The recurring spread of new variants has caused breaks in the supply chain due to a shortage of employees and the delays in manufacturing.
The shortage will likely hit the hottest toys and brands first as companies are unable to restock sold out items during peak holiday season. Though Hasbro and Mattel have an advantage in the scramble for shipping containers, the popular toy lines produced by Hasbro (My Little Pony, Transformers, and Nerf) and Mattel (Barbie, Hot Wheels, and American Girl) will sell out quickly. Mattel has already announced their intent to increase prices in the second half of the year, causing buyers to shift their holiday purchases to earlier in the year. This mania surrounding rising prices and possible sellouts of the most popular toys is predicted to exacerbate company losses as the price of production and shipping increases.
The factors affecting the supply side of the toy industry are estimated to cause a 2-4 week delay in shipping. Even companies that pay inflated prices for shipping containers will be slowed by disruptions in the trucking industry and truck driver shortages in the US. The demand for toys remains high as the holiday season approaches and popular toys are likely to sell out rapidly without the ability to be restocked in December.
With these expected supply issues in mind, nonprofits would have to adjust their drive timeline to allow enough time for donors and suppliers to deliver.
How to Navigate the Toy Shortage: Start Early
If your organization has not started already, NOW is the time to dust off your holiday drive plans. If you are ordering in bulk, you should start putting together a list of desired items and quantities. Place your order and have it shipped well in advance of your distribution event – not just because of the toy shortage, but also because of the continued challenges in the transportation industry. If you are planning an “Adopt A Family” type of drive, we recommend launching the communication to donors, and begin working with the social workers simultaneously to determine timelines to receive the lists from families. It will be important to explain to donors that starting early will allow them to get a head start before supplies run out. We recommend reading our June post (link), with advice on how to guide the social workers and the families to ensure success of Adopt A Family drives.
Holiday Toy Recommendations
Not sure what you need? To help get a head start on this question, our team reviewed gift requests from our Adopt-a-Family programs in 2020 compared to prior years and have not found any major differences, except for the obvious reduction in in-person family activities such as movie tickets. Gift cards are still highly popular, particularly with teens and adults, and can also help offset shortage issues.
Here are some recommended items we have gathered to you by age group:
Ages 0-3: At this age brands are less important, and more so the fine and gross motor skills of the child, as well as parent convenience. For toys, we would recommend items such as books, musical instruments, interactive toys (aka toys that “do something”), blocks, dolls with strollers, puzzles, balls and toy cars. Save your dollars. Dolls don’t have to be expensive ones, and cars don’t need too be full of bells and whistles. Kids at this age are happy with pretty much anything. Convenience items that make great gifts for this age imclude pajamas, clothes, shoes, a small backpack for preschool, bath, bedding or feeding products.
Ages 4-7: Age 4 is when children really begin to grasp the holiday magic. Developmentally wise, this age is all about pretend play: so think action figures, barbies and 6 inch dolls with clothes or accessories, legos, costumes, ‘real life’ items adjusted to kids sizes such as strollers, vacuums, makeup, or kitchen sets. Doctor set, drill and fixing accessories. Of course, books, classic board or card games are always great as well. In the electronics department, we recommend learning toys such as Leapfrog. School aged children will appreciate school and art supplies. Many girls this age love accessories, nail polish and “cute” things. Non toy items include clothing, shoes and blankets. And don’t forget to fill a bag with treats and small stocking stuffers.
Age 8-I2: Some kids still play with dolls and action figures at this age, particularly on the lower end of this age range, however many are starting to appreciate gifts that allow them to make things their own. Art and drawing supplies, science or baking kits, jewelry or nail art kits, sports items such as balls, or skateboards. It is important to keep protective gear with any item that requires it. And, like it or not, many kids this age love video games. A gift card to purchase their favorite game will make it a holiday to remember! Non toy items include personal care items, school supplies, headphones, water bottles, clothes and shoes.
Ages 13-16: Welcome to teen-land! Gift cards, Make up, clothes, jewelry, personal and skincare items, gym bags, video game currency and accessories, skateboards, bikes, room decor (LED lights were a huge hit last year), and lots of hoodies! For the sports fanatics, branded items (such jerseys, sweatshirts, and hats/baseball caps) are always huge winners.
All Ages: Here are some items that would make most humans happy: a blanket, holiday treats, a personal care toiletry bag with essentials such as shampoo, and soap. A journal, a mug or water bottle with an inspirational quote, and of course a gift card!
Already feeling overwhelmed? Need help planning your holiday programs? Reach out to us NOW if you are interested in running an online toy drive or holiday adopt-a-family/person program. This year more than ever, it’s important to start early!