Hot gifts often sell out around the holidays. This year, with global supply chain problems causing shortages of a wide range of goods, finding some of the most popular holiday items could be downright impossible.
Select toys and tech are already hard to come by, and shopping experts say it's best to buy right away if they're on your list and you manage to find them in stock.
“If you see a toy or game that you know you would like to give during the holidays, do not wait because there is no way to know that anything will come back in stock when it sells out this season,” Maddie Michalik, senior editor at The Toy Insider, said in an email to Money. “A toy that you see on the shelf today might not be there next week.”
Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst for the shopping site dealnews.com, also advises shoppers to act quickly. "The sooner you order, the sooner you'll potentially receive your item,” Ramhold said in an email. “Supply chains are a mess right now, and add to that shipping delays compounded by the disruptions and the fact that it's peak shipping season, and it's just a perfect storm for a significant order delay.”
2021 holiday gifts that are hard to find in stock
So which gifts should you be checking off your list right now before it’s too late?
Sony PlayStation 5
Trying to score a Playstation 5 can be a grueling mission these days. Even a year after its release, people are still clamoring to get in on the action.
Sony is struggling to meet demand, as it deals with a global shortage of computer chips and other PS5 components. Another issue is that people are using bots to purchase loads of PS5s online to resell at inflated prices.
To increase your chances of snagging a PS5, keep close tabs on your favorite retailers. Walmart, for instance, recently announced a re-stock of the PS5 before they sold out within a week. More PS5s may pop up at Walmart, though, so be prepared to act quickly.
For a limited time recently, Best Buy made PS5 consoles exclusively available to subscribers to Totaltech, a $199.99-a-year service that the retailer says offers "around-the-clock tech support, up to 24 months of product protection on most Best Buy purchases with an active membership, free delivery and standard installation." But when we last checked Best Buy's website, the company noted PS5s were simply "currently sold out," even for Totaltech members.
The Playstation 5 was also out of stock at Target and Amazon when we last checked. Third-party sellers on Amazon may have PS5 bundles available, which include extras like video games and accessories. But a quick glance shows prices well above $1,000. So it may be best to wait to avoid overpaying.
Microsoft Xbox Series X
As with the PS5, people are struggling to snag the Xbox Series X — for many of the same reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic has stifled production of computer chips and other parts used to manufacture electronics, including the new Xbox. And demand for this hot-ticket item is leveling up at lightning speed.
At last check, the official Xbox website had the Series X listed as out of stock at Walmart, BestBuy, Target, GameStop, Antonline, Amazon and even Microsoft. But keep your eyes on these companies as they may announce restocking events the closer we get to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It's also not uncommon for retailers to put customers on waiting lists or let them sign up for email alerts.
Millions of people passed the time during COVID-19 lockdowns by playing their favorite video games, like Mario Kart, thanks to the Nintendo Switch.
If your hands aren’t already on the wheel, it may be hard to find a new Switch console now. This month, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa announced the company can’t meet demand this holiday season and has cut its sales forecasts for the Switch by 6% for the remainder of the year.
However, the Switch isn't sold out, at least not when we last checked. You could buy the Nintendo Switch at Walmart for $409. GameStop, Walmart and Target are selling the Nintendo Switch Animal Crossing: New Horizons Edition for $299.99, and Amazon listings had the same model at slightly higher prices.
If you rather keep a hand-held version of the Switch without the TV hook-up, you can buy the Nintendo Switch Lite for $200 through several retailers.
Apple iPhone 13
Apple's newest iPhones often sell out as soon as they hit the market. But the inventory issues are worse this time around. Apple recently announced it cut production orders for the iPhone 13 models by 11% due to chip shortage pressures, and order delays are likely for shoppers.
“Currently, estimated wait times for the iPhone 13 lineup are anywhere from two weeks to a full month,” Ramhold said. “If you wait to order, there's a chance it could take even longer."
Apple lists the iPhone 13 pro as starting at $999 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max as starting at $1,099. However, it may be easier to find the standard iPhone 13 (retail price starts at $799) or the iPhone 13 mini (from $699).
Apple says it aims to meet demand by shifting components used to make other products toward iPhone 13 production. Unfortunately, this could mean it will be harder to get Apple’s other hot items like the latest iPad and AirPods Pro.
Google Pixel 6
After months of hype, Google released its Pixel 6 on October 19 to glowing reviews. With a mid-tier price tag of $599 or $899 for the Pixel 6 Pro, many customers raced to get their hands on it.
“It's only been out for a couple of weeks now, but retailers and carriers alike are facing a shortage of them already,” Ramhold says. “Many places have the Pro model backordered or are noting them as being sold out entirely."
When we checked, Google Pixel 6 models were on backorder at Best Buy, but some variations of the device were available at regular retail prices from Target and Amazon.
Magic Mixies Magic Cauldron
The Magic Mixies Magic Cauldron made several Top Toys list this year. It’s a play set that lets kids mix different potions and ingredients into a colorful cauldron that creates a mystical mist, and the result is a furry figure that responds to touch with different sounds and movements.
And it’s quickly disappearing from store shelves. It’s currently sold out at Target. Moose Toys, the manufacturer, has the standard version listed for a redial price of $69.99. You can order different versions of the Magic Mixes Cauldrons from Walmart ranging from about $142 to $193.
Pokemon Trading Card Game: Celebrations Elite
Gotta catch ‘em all? Good luck!
Pokemon is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with the Pokemon Trading Card Game: Celebrations Elite box set, which includes. Remakes of popular cards like Mewtwo, Charizard, Flying Pikachu and Surfing Pikachu. The set contains a total of more than 100 cards and other items for a retail price of around $49.99.
But we couldn't find it in stock at that price anywhere. When we looked, you could catch one for a bit under $90 at Walmart and Amazon. This Pokemon card box set was sold out at GameStop when we looked.
Batman Bat-Tech Batcave Playset
At first glance, it appears like a large Batman figure. But you can open it up to reveal an interactive playset complete with sounds and 10 different play areas compatible with 4-inch action figures.
Toy experts expect that this playset will be hard to find in stock in the weeks ahead, though we did see it available at the regular retail price of $99.99 at Amazon and Target, and in select Walmart stores (but not online).
VTech KidiZoom PrintCam
If your kids are shutterbugs, they may want a VTech KidiZoom PrintCam. This gadget lets kids snap photos using more than 100 templates and print them on the spot. It can also shoot video with special effects.
While the VTech KidiZoom PrintCam usually costs $69.99, Walmart rolled back the price to $49.88. It wasn't available for delivery when we last checked, but you can visit the site for inventory in your local store.
So what’s all the rage with Squishmallows? These plush dolls resembling different food items and animals have captured the attention of everyone from children to adults boasting their collections on social media. Some are even comparing these to the Beanie Baby craze of the ‘90s.
And just like the BBs, you can expect these to fly off shelves. Walmart, Target and Amazon offer plenty to choose from, though sellers are asking inflated prices for certain models, with listings ranging from $3 to $300 depending on the size and character.
Holiday shopping tips
Supply chain madness, high-demand products and empty shelves. How do you overcome challenges raised this holiday season? Here are some strategies:
Search online and buy in-store
Visit the websites of nearby retailers to see if what you want is available in store. This will help you bypass any shipping delays. And don’t forget mom-and-pop shops. These may have some items in stock since many people rush to big retailers first.
"Don’t be afraid to ask store managers when they usually get their shipments so you can come in and shop on those days," Michalik says.
Set up Google alerts
Once retailers get their products on hand, they’re free to release these as they see fit. So it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the inventory from big ones like Best Buy, Target and Walmart as we near Black Friday.
Setting up Google alerts for your desired items can help. This feature allows you to set-up emails alerts whenever something like a product is mentioned in the news or on popular websites. Be sure to include supporting keywords like “in-stock or “available” as well as desired price ranges and desired frequency of alerts You can fine-tune these alerts as you please so you won't get spammed with information that may not help.
Also, consider using product-tracking websites like Zoolert, Nowinstock.net and Stock Informer.
Prepare to pay higher prices
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again. Inflation is up, and the prices for many goods and services are soaring.
“This year, consumers can expect price increases in the toy aisle due to the ongoing shipping crisis,” The Toy Insider's Michalik says. “Price increases for raw materials, labor, and transportation are being passed along to consumers at varying rates. While some items like dolls and action figures are going up $2 to $3, bigger ticket items like dollhouses and ride-ons might go up $20 to $30. We are seeing an average of 10% in price increases.”
With that said, budget carefully and be prepared to dish out more than you’d like to. Rampant inflation is showing no signs of slowing down, and the fact these products are in such high demand will only make matters worse.
Also, don't be so hard on yourself. Supply chain issues, labor shortages, scarce building materials and pandemics are beyond your control. Your friends, significant other, family (and hopefully, your kids) will understand.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, we misstated the price of Best Buy's TotalTech service. It costs $199.99 per year, not $199 per month as stated in an earlier version.