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Christmas shortages: Will this toy story have a happy ending?

Christmas toy shortage
Retailers are warning of shortages this Christmas, but all is not lost.

Retailers across the country are warning shoppers to get ahead of the game to beat the Christmas toy shortage.

The picture in the UK has been described as a “perfect storm”. But what does this mean for your kids’ Santa list? Will elf be sitting on an empty shelf?

We’ve gathered all the facts and top tips to avoid a festive frenzy.

What’s happening?

Recent headlines have painted a picture of a real life nightmare before Christmas. It comes as retailers share stories of supply chain hold ups, rising overheads and staff shortages.

Firstly, there’s a problem with shipping toys from overseas. The typhoon in China coupled with lockdowns in some areas of manufacturing have led to massive delays. It’s also hiked up the costs for retailers.

Chain store The Entertainer recently warned of a 12-fold increase in container costs, from £1,000 in 2020 to upwards of £11,000 now. Meanwhile, John Lewis has paid for extra ships to maintain its supplies.

Once the goods arrive in UK ports, there’s a shortage of HGV drivers to transport it, caused partly by the ‘pingdemic’ and partly by Brexit.

There is also a shortage of staff to work in the warehouses, with Amazon, DHL and Whistl all offering joining bonuses in a bid to attract staff.

A recent KPMG survey of 114 retail executives showed that 82% are ‘somewhat worried’ or ‘very worried’ about the Christmas toy shortage.

Elf on the shelf
We may need some elf magic this year. 

Christmas is not cancelled

All is not lost. The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) says that while the industry is facing major challenges, we needn’t brace ourselves for empty shelves this Christmas.

“What we have now is a perfect storm, in an industry that was already under strain,” says Ewan Macdonald-Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the SRC.

“However, Christmas is the most important time of the year for retailers so there’s been lots of planning and contingency measures put in place. The question really is whether these contingency measures will be enough to prevent shortages.”

The message from the retail industry is better safe than sorry.

Smyths Toys, which has big stores in Aberdeen and Inverness, suggests shopping early to beat the Christmas toys shortage.

“This is always a good idea so as to avoid the rush and to avoid disappointment,” said a spokeswoman. “It is particularly important to shop early this year as global shipping and container shortages are causing supply issues in many parts of our lives.”

Will prices go up?

Possibly, but not by much. The good news is that retail is a hugely competitive market and if shops hike up their prices, shoppers will just go to their competitors.

This means the hot toy for 2021 isn’t likely to double in price. It just might be harder to get hold of, and take longer to arrive. The SRC says prices might creep up gradually though, as the industry tries to recoup some of its losses.

In the meantime, parents forums and money saving bloggers have some great tips to minimise stress (and costs) this year.

Facebook group Inverness Mummies has provided a list of Christmas sales dates, which we’ve recreated here for easy reference.

Some Christmas sale dates to help parents and Santa

Top tips from MoneySavingExpert

Once again, the MoneySavingExpert website has saved parents headaches and pounds with its 44 Christmas money saving tips. Here’s our five favourites:

Start with what you can afford

Hands up who’s guilty of writing a list of everything their child wants then working out how to pay for it? It sounds obvious, but the best approach is to set a budget you can afford and then work out how best to spend that. As the post author Jenny Keefe says: “Christmas is one day – don’t ruin the whole of the next year for it.”

Make a NUPP

Martin Lewis’ No-Unnecessary-Present Pact calls on people to make deals with their friends to skip the token gift, set a sensible limit or do a Secret Santa. Of course you will buy your Mum a gift, but does your second auntie need another scented candle?

Save a tiny bit at a time

The Christmas price tag can look daunting, so break it down. There’s still 14 weeks until Christmas. If you give up something small – your daily coffee or weekly takeaway for example – then save the difference, you’d be surprised how much you can save. A Friday night take away at £30 gives you £420 by Christmas.

Consider second hand

Check out eBay and local marketplaces for second hand toys. Every parent knows the ‘hot toy’ often ends up gathering dust after the initial unwrapping excitement wears off. Save your pocket and the environment by buying pre-loved. At the same time, consider flogging any unwanted gifts you have lying around.

Use your imagination

Magic doesn’t have to mean money. Plan fun days out with your kids, introduce them to charity volunteering, befriend a lonely neighbour or write a good deed ‘pledge’. 20 years from now, your kids won’t remember what they got for Christmas 2021 – but they will remember how they felt.

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