Get in now or miss out – that’s the message coming from retailers.
Festive wrapping paper is selling well. That, says Jonathan Waecker, is the surest sign the silly season is already upon us. It’s possibly starting earlier than ever. “We have already seen Kiwis making a start on their Christmas shopping with customers … purchasing gift wrap earlier than previous years,” confirms The Warehouse’s chief customer officer.
That’s right: it’s only October, but Christmas trees are going up, presents are being wrapped and, depending where you live, Mariah Carey is coming soon to an (online) mall near you. Nine weeks, less than 60 days: that’s how long you’ve got until December 25. If the last two months are anything to go by, that time will pass in a blur of delta-related stress, snacks, 1pm briefings and the occasional silly little walk.
That won’t do when Santa is supposed to come to town. Global supply chains are blocked up. Ships full of stuff are stuck at sea, unable to dock. Who would have imagined that last year’s shipping issues would still be impacting us a full 12 months later. The upshot? Stores are already putting up the “sold out” signs on some items. Come December, it’s likely many of the most popular products will already be gone. If you save your Christmas shopping until then, it’s probably going to be too late.
“October is the new December” is the message from Jo McColl. “You can see it,” says the owner of Wellington’s Unity Books. “People are starting to send in lists of quite varied things.” McColl suspects that most are Christmas shopping purchases. She’s been sending her daughter out to do deliveries because couriers can’t keep up. What’s hot? The new Ottolenghi cookbook and Colm Tóibín’s The Magician are up there, as is coffee table book Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings (at $395, this is a gift for someone you really like) and the new title by Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You.
Supply worries are plaguing toy buyers too. “There’s going to be a shortage of toy products this silly season,” says Trade Me spokesperson Millie Silvester. She’s predicting the most popular stocking fillers will be animal-based: Zuru’s Rainbocorn, a toy animal that comes with “magical colour-changing poop”, Poppy the booty-shakin’ pug, and Burping Bobby, a board game. Play Doh’s nightmare-inducing DIY dentistry kit – dubbed “Drill N Fill” – is also expected to be in hot demand.
Movie- and book-themed toys are also being snapped up. A fire truck from the Paw Patrol movie, the Harry Potter version of Pictionary, and a Baby Yoda animatronic, which “acts like a real baby” by breathing and sleeping, are proving to be popular. For those, Silvester advises: “Get in quick or risk missing out.”
Adults want their toys too, and Trade Me has seen a huge demand in searches for Apple products recently, including AirPods and watches, possibly inspired by Apple recently announcing new versions of both tech gadgets. The HomePod Mini, previously unavailable in New Zealand, is also likely to be big. Shortages are being predicted for other tech toys, including the GoCube, an app-driven version of the Rubik’s Cube that teaches users how to solve it by themselves.
But the hottest items by far are gaming machines. Trade Me searches for Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo consoles over the past seven days have shot up, with 17,000 searches for the Playstation 5 alone. Those consumers could be in trouble: a console shortage has been underway since Xbox and Playstation released their latest offerings last year, and that remains ongoing. Scalpers are using bots to nab them when they do come in stock, then they’re re-listed on Trade Me. Some cost $1,500, nearly double the original price.
If that’s not your thing, Waecker, from The Warehouse, says there’s also a trend towards more tangible items. He predicts crafting kits will be popular gifts this year, as well as old-school gifts: board games, puzzles, outdoor equipment, as well as Lego sets and Barbie dolls. Scooters, bikes and trampolines are likely to become big sellers too.
After the year we’ve had, with everyone stuck at home during lockdowns with way too much spare time on their hands, there’s another option for those wanting to bypass the global supply chain issues: a DIY Christmas. Ignore the online stores, pull out the cardboard, and make your own gifts: design your own Christmas cards, then craft personalised vouchers: maybe a foot massage, or a home-cooked dinner of the recipients’ choosing. Retailers may not like you, but that’s one gift that can’t sell out.