What parents need to know about a major toy shortage this holiday season

·3 min read

Barely a week after Labor Day, Biana Perez is already planning ahead for the holiday season.

"I'm shopping early and ordering everything by the end of October," the Boston mom told TODAY Parents. "Last year so many things were sold out: anything that was going to get your kids energy out because of the pandemic. Everyone was in the same boat. The big ticket items — indoor trampolines, bounce houses, playhouses, toy cars — the ones that they actually drive. So I'm trying to get ahead of it this year."

Unfortunately for parents, holiday shopping in 2021 may prove even more challenging than it was in 2020. A new survey from professional services firm KPMG reveals that there may be a major shortage of toys and other inventory this holiday season.

According to the survey of 114 retail executives, 82 percent said they are somewhat or very concerned about inventory shortages thanks to a global supply chain crisis.

"There is going to be a major shortage of toy products this year," Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment, creators of LOL! dolls, told CNN Business. "The demand is going to be there. What is not going to be there is the product to fill the demand."

The workaround for shoppers may not be to simply shop online. Retailers are expecting e-commerce sales to surpass 2020 levels, growing by 35 percent.

Related: According to a recent survey, 54% of Americans feel more financially stressed about the holidays than they did last year.

In anticipation of high demand, many stores said they will rely on different modes of fulfillment to consumers, including: buy online; pick up in store/curbside pickup; buy online and ship from store; and buy in store with home delivery.

"Clearly, retailers are confident about the holiday shopping season, though they are concerned about inflation, supply chain shortages and the delta variant, and they’re taking steps to prepare for their potential impact," Scott Rankin, KPMG's national advisory and strategy leader for consumer and retail, told TODAY.

Extended store hours and back-up stock also will be used. More than half of the surveyed executives said their companies plan to be open on Thanksgiving, and 59 percent plan to invest more heavily in "safety stock," which means having extra inventory on hand in case demand increases unexpectedly.

Related: The early months of the pandemic led to shortages of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, meat and more.

Despite toy shortage and other supply chain concerns, holiday sales forecasts are more optimistic than ever.

KPMG expects that 2021 holiday sales for U.S. retailers will be 7 percent higher than last year’s, a figure nearly double the retail industry’s historical annual growth rate.

“For shoppers, this means think about shopping early for the most important items on your holiday list (and) make sure you are aware of promotions from your favorite retailer,” Rankin said. “Where there may be a shortage at your local retailer, you have the option to shop online.”

Virginia parent Stevie McCauley confessed to some nervousness about her family's proactive approach to holiday shopping this year for her 4-year-old son.

"We already have big Christmas items in storage, which is a risk because interests change fast at this age," McCauley said.

Maryland mom Katie Cook said she's decided to take a simplistic approach to the holidays this year.

"I’m going to try the ‘need, want, wear, read’ method to cut down on clutter," she told TODAY of gifting for her son. "He will be 21 months, so he can’t really tell me what he wants."

At publication time, attempts to reach Santa for comment were unsuccesful.

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