Following reports of freight costs rising by 500% and ongoing labour shortages in the transport and logistics sector, toy retailers and manufacturers are warning of depleted shelves this Christmas. Last month The Entertainer, one of the UK’s biggest toy retailers, predicted that distribution issues would result in shortages in some of the most popular children’s toys causing national newspapers to speculate that “Christmas may be cancelled”.

The lack of availability and mounting transport costs mean parents may either be unable to find their child’s favourite toy or will have to pay a premium for it with inflation set to rise above 4% according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). 

Richard Hurd-Wood, CEO of Virgin Experience Days

But, as Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, has said there’s “no need to panic buy” amid reassurances that unlike 2020, Christmas will not be ‘cancelled’ this year.

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Plan ahead

Retailers and consumers alike are being urged to plan ahead to avoid and prevent the worst of the toy shortages this Christmas. Stockpiling can prevent sudden surges in demand creating shortages in stores, while advancing production timelines and increasing resources for manufacturing and transport can also help.

Similarly, consumers can alleviate the impact of toy and gift shortages during Christmas by planning presents carefully, budgeting ahead of time and spreading purchases out across a few pay checks – starting early on in the festive season. That way you can still secure the favourite toys this year from Paw patrol to Barbie, and the best experiences from a Peppa Pig themed afternoon tea to junior driving lessons.

Think creatively

With demand for manufacturing and transport so high and resources limited, planning alone may not be enough for retailers to beat the looming toy shortages. Businesses will need to think creatively about how they handle the crisis, in particular regarding how they adapt their customer offering. Improving company policy on returns, cancellations and exchanges, and diversifying delivery options.

For example, during the pandemic Virgin Experience Days’s Go-On-It Guarantee enhanced voucher flexibility when lockdown restrictions shut down large parts of the experience economy. Under this commitment, voucher validity lasted until September 2021. We contacted our customers in advance of the deadline with a voucher redemption reminder offering an additional optional three-month extension.

Likewise, consumers must adapt to the challenges and think of alternatives to the most popular children’s toys this Christmas. Experiences are a great way to give a loved one a story to tell and to spend time together. After 18 months of lockdown restrictions, experiences can re-connect us with our favourite activities and interests both inside and outdoors from art lessons to a safari trip.

Elsewhere, consumers can recycle old toys or swap them with family friends, create handmade gifts or even find timeless classics that are easier to source from the shops such as books, arts and crafts gifts and board games.

A collective effort between consumers and businesses this year can avoid the impending toy shortage and prevent the disappointment of another Christmas being cancelled.