From Elsa to Hatchimals: Why do toy shortages happen every single year?

Christmas shopping is a complicated business...

"From Elsa to Telly Tubbies 15 years ago - every year there seems to be one that catches us all off guard," says Maurice Doyle, Banba Toymaster managing director.

This year there is one clear 'It Toy' - Hatchimals.

"That’s what everyone is looking for, unfortunately there’s a big shortage of them," the manager of the Jervis St store told Newstalk.

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The toys come in eggs, which hatch to unveil fluffy Furby-style creatures (Furby has also made a comeback this year).

"Because of the supply and demand situation there are going to be a lot of upset children," he warns 23 days ahead of the 'Big Day.'

Toy retailers across the country are scrambling to get more of these critters on to the island - but once a toy runs out it can be an uphill struggle to source more come November or December.

Banba Toymaster last saw Hatchimals in October, when it got a delivery of more than 70 of the €80 toys which were expected to last until the week before Christmas - but they sold-out in less than two days.

Forward planning

For shops the Christmas guessing game takes place in January.

The major manufacturers unveil their wears for the festive season almost a year ahead of time. This is the point where retailers need to put their cash down as they bet on the big trends for almost a full year later.

Hatchimals are an example of a hit out of left field.

"You are at looking something that nobody knew anything about. It hadn’t hit the general public’s radar. So normally, we take a punt and unfortunately we were wrong this time," the Toymaster boss reflects.

"I think everybody was. That’s why there’s a lack of supply... If we knew what would be big every year, we’d all be lying on a beach in Barbados, smoking cigars and drinking tequilas," he adds.


The problem is that once toys take-off, the manufacturers can struggle for factory space to make more stock, as Maurice puts it, "they only have a certain amount of time to produce so once it’s done - it’s done."

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This can limit the profits toy companies can make if they cannot get their in-demand products on shelves for the Christmas shopping season.

He reflects that Paw Patrol toys were like gold dust last year - while Elsa from Disney's Frozen broke the hearts of many kids (and parents) in 2014.

In that case, toy shops had bet on the wrong sister:

"Take Anna and Elsa for example, everybody thought that Anna would be the big one because the focus of the film was on her. There was no shortage of Anna dolls - but everybody took Elsa to heart and the rest is history."

The same thing happened in 1995 when Toy Story space ranger Buzz Lightyear was the in-demand toy and shops ran out:

"Woody was the main character in the movie - everybody thought Woody would be the figure in demand. Everybody put their money down on Woody and there was a big shortage of Buzz."


Maurice concedes that to some degree it's a "shot in the dark" when you are planning for Christmas so far ahead.

Following the success of the Pokemon Go mobile game, kids are looking for all-things Pokemon this year - from cuddly toys to the original cards that inspired the series. This is a trend that few saw coming 11 months ago.

Meanwhile, box office hits like The Secret Life of Pets and Finding Dory have not translated into big sales.

Even at this point 2016's real toy trends will not be established until after the next few weeks as shoppers come out in force.

Catching Hatchimals

“Fingers crossed - we are hopeful,” Banba Toymaster says when asked if any more Hatchimals will be in Irish shops before Christmas.

Mr Doyle advises shoppers to know what they are looking for before they head into toy shops and to "wear comfortable shoes."