By Kevin Meyer
Once again we’re coming up on holiday season, and once again we have a bunch of retailers and toy manufacturers who tried to guess the latest trend in toys almost a year ago.
Why a year ago? Because that’s how long it takes to get a distant “cheap labor” supplier up and running and then to ship the product across vast oceans.
But trends are a fickle thing, and predicting them a year in advance is something of an inexact science. So what happens?
It’s not even Thanksgiving and some stores are already running out of hot toys. Blame cautious buying by retailers trying not to get stuck with unsold inventory, as they were last year.
Among the items in short supply is a surprise hit: Zhu Zhu Pets, toy hamsters programmed to scamper around a plastic “house” whose rooms are connected by tunnels. The sets are sold out at Target.com and Wal-Mart.com. Meanwhile, the maker, tiny Cepia in St. Louis, is scurrying to get more shipments from China.
So how does that cheap labor compare against the added cost to manage low inventories, expedite new shipments, and especially lost sales from empty shelves? Or the look on a kid’s face when he or she doesn’t get the desired toy?
Yeah, I thought so.