Shoppers face Christmas toy shortages and higher prices with Smyths Toys among those advising customers to buy early
A shortage of toys and higher prices for those on the shelves risk greeting Christmas shoppers this winter, with toy retailers insisting they won't be able to avoid the problems facing many other industries.
And with Christmas now firmly on the horizon, those tasked with fulfilling children's festive wish lists are warning families to begin their shopping early if they want to avoid running into problems purchasing those must-have items youngsters hope to find under the tree on December 25.
Smyths Toys, which has stores nationwide - alongside shipping hundreds of thousands of toys to online customers - released its winter catalogue packed full of Christmas gift suggestions on September 24.
The company said it hoped this would help give customers as much time as possible to make 'key gift decisions' particularly in light of the ongoing problems with global shipping chains.
The toy superstore, which sells everything from toys, games and electronics to children's bikes and baby items, said while it was always worth considering shopping early to avoid the rush, this year the advice was more important than ever.
A company spokesman said: "Smyths Toys advises you to shop early for Christmas. This is always a good idea so as to avoid the rush and to avoid disappointment.
"But 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."
Ongoing labour shortages are a major cause for concern for food and farming industries, which have warned that unless action is taken to remedy the problems, there will be food shortages and supply chain issues as the country goes into winter.
The ongoing fuel supply issues were initially caused by BP confirming it was having to close a number of its sites because of a shortage of haulage drivers, while last week it emerged that Bonfire Night may see a shortage of fireworks and higher prices because global shipping problems are continuing to wreak havoc for firms attempting to import their goods into the UK.
John Lewis is attempting to recruit 7,000 people to Christmas roles this year including to a number of delivery roles to ensure goods make it to customers, while a recent recruitment fair at Bluewater Shopping Centre hasn't yet filled all available job roles available for the upcoming festive season.
With one of the biggest roles to play during the Christmas period, toy retailers are now also warning their customers they are unlikely to be immune to the issues affecting other companies.
Andrew Coplestone is founder of premium dolls’ pram provider Play Like Mum. He expects this Christmas to be 'the most challenging' he has faced during the 30 years he has worked in the toy industry.
He explained: "The shortages we’ve seen so far have largely been seen around the food industry and the occasional empty supermarket shelf, but this will pale in comparison to the problems consumers will face as we enter the busiest period for UK retail this Christmas. In no sector will this be more apparent than in the toy industry – with the increase of shipping container costs impacting every corner of the global toy community.
"The skyrocketing costs for imports will result in narrower product ranges, less seasonal discounting, low stock levels, and higher retail prices for potentially lower quality products. What’s more, there is a shortage of drivers to deliver these products, once they do eventually reach the UK."
Mr Coplestone, who is encouraging families to shop early and to also support as many independent companies as they can, says manufactures and retailers are finding themselves in very difficult positions.
He explained: “Not only is there a huge risk of Christmas stock simply not arriving on time, Christmas shoppers will be faced with paying significantly higher prices for the same products and some manufacturers may even resort to making products from cheaper materials.
“Now more than ever, the nation is looking forward to the return of a normal festive season which can be celebrated to the full, and retailers desperately need a strong Christmas to help make up for what they lost from Covid restrictions. However, unless shoppers plan ahead and are aware of the drastically different Christmas 2021 landscape, it won’t be a very merry Christmas for many consumers and manufacturers alike.”