Archive for Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stragglers find shortages of hot items

December 23, 2009

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A shopper waits in a checkout line with a Zhu Zhu Pet hamster and other items Nov. 27 at the Toys “R” Us in Camp Hill, Pa. Those who haven’t gotten their hands on Zhu Zhu pets yet may have to wait until after Christmas.

A shopper waits in a checkout line with a Zhu Zhu Pet hamster and other items Nov. 27 at the Toys “R” Us in Camp Hill, Pa. Those who haven’t gotten their hands on Zhu Zhu pets yet may have to wait until after Christmas.

— Looking for UGG boots? Or what about the last string of holiday lights or inflatable Santas to spruce up the lawn? You might be out of luck.

Some last-minute holiday shoppers are facing disappointment. Stores are running out of key holiday items — and not just Zhu Zhu pets, those robotic hamsters that have been hard to find since before Thanksgiving.

Even sparkly tops, skirts and scarves are running scarce at some stores. Bloomingdale’s spokeswoman Anne Keating said that over the past week the upscale department store chain has sold out of practically “anything that sparkles.”

Even shoppers who got a head-start faced some hurdles beyond the toy aisles. At Mall of America, the nation’s biggest shopping center, an $85 wallet by popular designer Tory Burch that comes in an array of colors — blue, gold and black — was sold out before Thanksgiving. The mall had planned to promote the item in its holiday advertisements, but realized it had sold out, according to Mall of America spokeswoman Bridget Jewell.

It’s a switch from last year, when piles of holiday treasures were discounted up to 90 percent as a freefall in spending left merchants swimming in inventory.

But this year, stores cut inventories, willing to take a risk of running out of items rather than having to slash prices. The strategy is expected to boost fourth-quarter profits but may limit sales in the final days and even after Christmas.

A look at what’s hard to find:

Home decor: Most holiday decorations are gone at home-improvement chains Home Depot and Lowe’s. Both say energy-efficient LED holiday lights have been gone for days.

Most inflatable lawn ornaments have sold out. Another key item that shoppers can’t find is Home Depot’s lighted reindeer and sleigh lawn decor.

Lowe’s said the most popular inflatables were the least expensive — a 4-foot Santa and a 4-foot snowman, retailing each for $19.97, have sold out.

Toys: Those who haven’t gotten their hands on Zhu Zhu pets yet may have to wait until after Christmas.

Toys R Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said the toy retailer sold 1 million of them in the past week and is receiving a couple of hundred thousand more before Christmas. That means each store will get about 400 hamsters before Christmas. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is getting about 20 to 60 per store per day through today, but the rodents sell out immediately.

Many of the hot toys are scarce, including Mattel Inc.’s Rocky the Robot and Mindflex, which measures brain waves and uses them to push a ball through a course, and Hasbro Inc.’s Chuck My Talking Truck.

Jim Silver, an analyst at Timetoplaymag.com, said there are more toy shortages this year than last year.

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