Unlike the Tickle Me Elmo days of yesteryear where toys sell out due to demand, popular toys are disappearing from store shelves for another reason.
The empty shelves are just another sign of bad times, where shortages come from stores terrified of over ordering.
“I guess if you see it, you should get it,” said Martha Frey, who was surprised when she couldn’t find a specific style of boots in a popular size for her 17-year-old daughter recently at a Top Shop in Manhattan’s SoHo district.
While the economy is slowly rebounding, shoppers are still unwilling to go on buying sprees. A luxury, most can no longer afford. As a result, stores are cautious regarding over ordering and for consumers, it means with seven weeks to go before Christmas, all the popular toys are already hard to find.
Some of the holiday season’s early hits that are almost impossible to find include: The Zhu Zhu Pets hamster, an interactive mechanical rodent by Cepia Inc. that sells for $9.99 and is being compared to Furby a decade ago. As well as Mattel’s Mindflex, which measures brain activity through a helmet. A Nerf dart thrower called Nerf N Strike from Hasbro Inc. and Barbie Fashionista, who can twist her hips and strike other poses.
The barren shelves are in stark contrast to last year, when stores ordered too much and had to slap big discounts on merchandise as soon as it hit the floor. Holiday sales posted their biggest decline in at least three decades, and the results cascaded into poor profits and even the closings or cutbacks of many prominent stores.
According to Antony Karabus, CEO of Karabus Management, a retail advisory firm, inventory is 8 to 13 percent smaller for mid-price clothing, and 10 to 15 percent smaller for home furnishings this year.
Stores would much rather be out of stock than stuck with lots of leftovers.