/ Parenting, Shopping

What happens when that must-have Christmas gift sells out?

toy shop at christmas

Every year there seems to be a must-have toy or gadget that sells out almost everywhere and leads to near hysteria when a fresh (often limited) batch miraculously arrives just before Christmas. This year is no exception.

Ever heard of a Hatchimal? Nope, neither had I until last week when it turned up on my children’s Christmas wish lists.

Turns out it’s an interactive toy that hatches from its egg and learns from you as it goes through three life stages.

Made by Canadian toy company Spin Master, this year’s must-have for under-10s are cute, furry and SOLD OUT.

Proving elusive

It seems that I’m late to the party. Launched on 7 October, Hatchimals have been in short supply since mid-November, when more organised Christmas shoppers snapped up the last few on the shelves.

Articles advising Hatchimal hunters where to look for new stock have been appearing with some regularity in the newspapers and there are stock-checker websites you can subscribe to, which will send you alerts when new stock comes in.

You need to be quick, though, when a fresh batch does arrive, it sells out again in seconds.

And now there’s an acknowledged shortage, the secondary market is in full swing,

Hatchimals should retail for around £60, but they are currently changing hands on eBay for over £100.

Now call me a cynic, but I don’t think all those listings are unwanted gifts that are being sold on.

Resale sites

Of course, there’s nothing illegal about people buying up stock to sell it on auction sites; it happens frequently with gig tickets when bots snap them up seconds after they go on sale. Only this time, instead of tickets, the professional on-sellers are getting to these precious toys first.

It’s frustrating, to say the least. What I want to know is why didn’t the manufacturers and stores get their numbers right? Surely outlandish prices on eBay can’t be doing them any favours – they must be missing out, too.

In a report about the shortage in The New York Times, James Martin, Spin Master’s head of global business, said: ‘By all analyses, we thought we had enough [Hatchimals]. It’s been exciting, but it’s also been daunting as we try to catch up and fill that demand.’

Not nearly as daunting as facing a tearful tot on a Hatchimal-free Christmas Day, Mr Martin.

But while I don’t subscribe to the ‘well I was only given a wooden spoon and counted myself lucky’ school of thought, over £100 for a toy is just too much to pay. Santa’s elves might have to create a voucher with a promise of a Hatchimal at a later date instead.

Have you ever tried to buy a gadget or toy that’s been so in demand at Christmas that everywhere seems to have sold out? Or was one on your wish list in a Christmas past? What was the must-have Christmas toy when you were a child?


I remember dragging my mum around Oxford (where our nearest ‘big’ shops were) one Christmas in search of a Chic-A-Boo – a monkey-type cuddly toy with a plastic face. It didn’t do anything particularly cool – unless you count wearing a bib and sucking its thumb – but all my friends had one and it was a must-have in the early 1980s. Needless to say, I played with it a handful of times before it was consigned to the loft. Think I’ve seen it up there since!


When I was wee I was told that “must have” doesn’t get in the same way as “I want” doesn’t get either. What about voting with our feet, guys? Must have? Says who? Kids aren’t daft and if well explained to them they can catch on fairly early on, like I did, that there are plenty of people out there trying to exploit them, that they don’t need those so-called must-haves, and that realising all this and being smarter than exploiters is actually much cooler.

I’m not saying that my parents were perfect and that I wasn’t disappointed from time to time, but all in all I’ve been pleased far more often than not and now as an adult I don’t feel that I must have anything. So yes, I am a bit smug :0). Like Rebecca says, £100 for a toy? Are we really traumatising our children if we say no? Aren’t we equipping them better for life if we say no and explain?


In our case it was two things: Transformers one year and Buzz Lightyear another. Fortunately, and by sheer luck, we’d picked up a Buzz Lightyear in the September, and were able to view – albeit a tad smugly – the hordes of parents clubbing together to charter a flight to WDW in Florida to buy one. In our day we shared a lump of coal – and mucky coal at that.

But no one can foretell what will be the ‘must have’ toy. Exactly the same as it used to be with pop songs – no one knows what will be the next big hit. Tracey Island from Thunderbirds made it one year, but the toy makers who could foresee the future would make a fortune.


Ah I never did get Tracey Island, I got the Stingray base instead. I did attempt to make my own Tracey Island though, via the excellent guidance of Blue Peter… I recall that it required a lot of fairy liquid bottles.


Did you have a train set Lauren? That was always on my wish list but I only got one when my son was 6 (well, it was his really but I showed him how to play with it).

The best toys my boys had were those they could take apart to see how they worked – radio controlled cars in particular. Better than just playing with them and it gave them a practical bent that has stood them well in later life.


Actually, I did share a train set with my brother – I suppose it was his really, but being an older sister I designed the more complex track systems! I also got a scalextric for my fifth birthday (I was a young F1 fanatic), as I got older though I found out that, while I did enjoy playing with it, I think my dad got more use out of it than I did!


I well remember the Hornby clockwork train set I had as a young child. We set it up in the sitting room and my friends who had smaller electric trains, came to play with it. I enjoyed playing with Meccano, but the Christmas present I remember best was a steam engine. My mother was not impressed at the thing running round the kitchen floor but no-one was burned and I did not set the house alight.


I always wanted a train set. A cousin had a large setup in a loft with countryside and towns and I always wanted to build my own little railway world. I got to make cardboard buildings for my brother’s train set but it wasn’t the same.

We got to share a Scalextric but as Lauren says it was probably our dads who really wanted them.

Meccano was probably my favourite toy.