One toy’s journey through the supply chain crisis: from Chinese factory to UK child’s stocking

今年, as children around the world write their Christmas lists, Santa has more to consider than whether they have been naughty or nice. Some of the season’s most popular items, から bikes to the Nintendo Switch, are in short supply across the UK, Europe and US.

To see what’s going on, we follow an imaginary toy from factory to クリスマス tree to illustrate the pinch points in the manufacture and supply chain that will affect presents this year.

“You’re not going to walk into a toy shop and find completely empty shelves,” says John Baulch, the publisher of Toy World magazine. “But if your child made a Christmas list and said I want one particular Barbie doll, you go to shops – it might not be there.”

Though it’s not unusual for one or two toys to sell out at Christmas, the toy industry is normally very stable, says Frédérique Tutt, a toy expert at the market research company NPD Group. But the sector has suffered from the same unexpected surge in demand, crash in production, shortages and supply chain problems that have affected all consumer goods during the pandemic.

As lockdowns shut schools and cancelled holidays, consumers in the west have been buying toys at an unprecedented rate – global toy sales are up 27% in the year to September, compared with the same period in 2019. “We’ve never seen this before,” says Tutt. “This alone is a struggle for toy companies.”Economists expect supply chain disruption to gradually fade next year, but the issues will not be fixed in time for Christmas. And people may notice price rises as well as shortages. Inflation – the measure of price growth for goods and services – is soaring around the world as a consequence of supply chain problems.

Our imaginary present is a deluxe interactive toy house complete with a puppy, named Snowflake. We’ve called it Snowflake’s Lodge. Specially designed for this article, it has a lot in common with some popular toys on this year’s Christmas lists.

Will your Christmas gifts arrive in time? We track the shortages and supply chain blockages that will affect the festive season this year