When parents of Lego-loving children head out to do their Christmas shopping this year, they may have to skip independent toy stores.
Toy suppliers say the booming popularity of The Lego Movie has led to a product shortage.
To address the shortfall, Lego has cut off supplies to independent Canadian children’s stores until 2015, according to some toy retailers.
The business, which recently overtook Barbie maker Mattel as the largest toy company in the world, confirmed that “consumer demand for Lego products has been stronger and earlier this year than ever before” and said it had “shipped more Lego stock to all of our retailers across Canada than in previous years at this same time.”
The company’s spokesperson, Michael McNally, did not say what measures, if any, have been taken to deal with the demand this year, but independent toy store owners say Lego has left many small retailers scrambling for stock ahead of the Christmas rush.
“It’s the worst time this can happen,” said Katie Mackinnon, co-owner of Danforth Ave. children’s store Treasure Island Toys. “We love Lego and it is a big draw to our store. There is nothing we can replace it with because if someone wants Lego, they want Lego and nothing else.”
Mackinnon said news of the shortage is slowly circulating and many, including her own 9-year-old son, are asking what it will mean for Christmas gift lists. She suspects shoppers will start stocking up on the product and scrounging for what’s left as shelves empty out.
Nearby, at the Swag Sisters toy store, co-owner Erin Salisbury said she has already begun notifying customers of the shortage and setting aside the few products she has left for her most dedicated and loyal Lego shoppers.
Because of past issues with communication and order fulfilment, she said she would prefer not to order from the company again, but she feels she can’t dump Lego because of its popularity and reputation.
“Lego is a great product and the other ones aren’t quite there,” she said. “Families want the brand. Even if the other brand is pretty good, the kids want the little red square.”
Salisbury said she will resume placing orders when the shortage is over and, in the meantime, will offer some competitive building block brands.
Dianne Mattice, president of Neighbourhood Toy Stores of Canada, an organization representing independent retailers and suppliers across the country, said this is an extraordinary situation for such a well-known brand.
“I’ve never heard of this coming from any company. Some companies will sell out of something, but they don’t sell out of their whole product line,” she said. “Maybe (the movie’s popularity) did take them by surprise, but I do believe that a company that size has got to have pretty incredible forecasting.”
Mattice and McNally note that the company has offered a small selection of products in an online store that can still be ordered amidst the shortfall. Unfortunately, Mattice said, the items available don’t include popular Star Wars or Ninjago sets that have been flying off shelves and topping wish lists.
“What’s on the list is not really desirable,” she said. “Some of it is OK. It is not what you want to fill your shelves with at Christmastime.”
Despite the disappointment and the tough season ahead, some, like Mackinnon, insist they will continue to support Lego.
“We are not mad at Lego. We still love the product and believe in it,” she said. “It’s frustrating, but we have faced other challenges and we will be getting more come 2015, so things should get better.”