Don’t delay: Experts say to shop for hot holiday toys now

Pandemic expected to cause shipping delays, limited supplies

Amid the pandemic, experts are encouraging people to start their holiday shopping much sooner than usual, especially when it comes to must-have toys and gaming consoles.
Amid the pandemic, experts are encouraging people to start their holiday shopping much sooner than usual, especially when it comes to must-have toys and gaming consoles.

It may only be September, but retail experts are saying that you should begin your holiday shopping right away.

We know what you’re thinking: Holiday shopping? I haven’t even decorated for Halloween yet!

But experts say that the coronavirus pandemic will make this holiday season yet another unpredictable one, especially when it comes to shipping and limited supply.

“I know that there’s an instinct to wait until later in the season, to wait until Black Friday for fabulous sales on toys,” said Kristin McGrath with RetailMeNot.com. “But what we’ve seen is that when a toy is extremely popular, we generally don’t see really great sales of those specific toys, even on Black Friday, and especially not later in the season, because the demand is so high.”

The coupon company tracks all shopping trends, and when it comes to toys this holiday season, McGrath says that even finding a high profile toy should be considered a deal in and of itself. So, if you’re searching for must-have toys, don’t wait to buy it -- and don’t hold out for a cheaper price.

The pandemic has caused stores to restock less frequently, in addition to major shipping delays -- something Toyology in Royal Oak warned us about this past summer.

“A lot of stuff is being held back; they’re waiting at the port, so nothing is getting dropped off and getting to the stores,” said Nori Klar with Toyology.

Related: How to detox your budget ahead of expensive holiday season

According to RetailMeNot, the trends in hot toys this year include gaming systems, with a new Nintendo Switch coming out to compete with the already hard-to-find PlayStation 5 and the new Xbox.

Other in-demand items include unboxing or surprise toys like L.O.L. Surprise! products and Hatchimals. Those products are always in high demand amid the holidays, but McGrath says there are tons of spin-off toys available, like the toys that mimic bubble wrap as an alternative to fidget spinners.

If you’re unable to get a must-have toy, experts say to be flexible and creative, and instead consider what item would really make your child happy for a longer period of time than just the initial joy of unboxing the toy.

“When you think about things that kids really enjoy, they enjoy that quality time; they enjoy building things; they enjoy interacting with their families,” McGrath said. “So, if you can, get a toy (like that) that’s a craft or something you can build together.”

RetailMeNot does think that there will be deals later in the season for items like puzzles, games and stuffed animals -- but experts say you should be flexible with what you find.

“Retailers are going to be trying to offload those things, so if you’re flexible, you can snag some really great deals,” McGrath said.

The biggest takeaway: Be prepared for potential shipping delays and complications when holiday shopping this year. The best think you can do is to start early and save yourself the stress in a few months.

Related: Holiday shopping purchases should be made ahead of supply shortages, shipping delays


About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.