Where’s the ‘Must-Have Toy’ of 2011?

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Victoria Will / AP

There’s no Tickle Me Elmo in sight. Not a one. And that has retailers wishing they didn’t have so many toys sitting on their shelves with less than two weeks before Christmas.

As the New York Times reports, without a mob-forming toy enticement to lure folks into long lines, and maybe even the occasional pepper spray brawl at the kids’ section of national stores, retailers have subdued excitement about toy shopping this Christmas season.

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Stephanie Lucy, vice president for toys at Target, tells the Times that there isn’t a single toy item hopping off the shelves this year. Without high demand for new items (and, for that matter, without many new items at all) the old standbys are still selling, whether Hot Wheels, Lego products or dolls. But so retailers don’t get stuck with what Wal-Mart dealt with last year, a gluttony of toys on shelves come January, the inventories have stayed relatively sparse.

Call it conservatism or a lack of fresh ideas, but a void in new toys has led, in part, to the toy deprivation. A recent survey by UBS and America’s Research Group says one-third of people are struggling to find a toy this year because of the lack of new products.

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The only new products that even sniff the realm of popular, Angry Birds merchandise and Lalaoopsy dolls, haven’t shipped in massive quantities, possibly because retailers were scared they wouldn’t sell well. Instead, they ordered extra classics, but at higher prices because of increased manufacturing costs.

The Times says stores have created their own self-fulfilling prophesy when it comes to toys, stocking so few and without enticing prices there really leaves no way for a retailer to capture success in the toy market this Christmas.

Oh, how we miss the days of people tackling each other for the privilege of buying a Tickle Me Elmo.

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