Christmas shortages: The phones, toys and gadgets you might not see under the tree this year

Due to stock shortages, you may have to be flexible on color or wait up to eight weeks for the new iPhone 14 Pro. photo / apple

Checking off the Christmas wish list could be tricky this year due to tight stocks and long waiting lists for some in-demand products.

Computers, gaming consoles and accessories, as well as phones and wireless headphones are all low in stock and should be on the ‘fast track’ list for Christmas.

Smaller gifts and stocking fillers may be available but not in the style, flavor, color or brand specified on the wish list.

On the food front, Christmas and summer fruits such as strawberries are expected to sell out and traditional pavlova could become more expensive as egg prices rise.

Staff shortages and supply chain issues have been a constant concern for the past two years, and retailers say there will be little relief before the holidays.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand Country Manager at price comparison site PriceSpy, said retailers are particularly hard hit by stock shortages.

“In the computer and accessories shopping categories, 41 percent of products on PriceSpy show as out of stock. And for games and consoles, it’s 27 percent.

“Although inventory levels are much better than last year, there’s still a big shortage of popular products like the PlayStation 5 and graphics cards.”

If you have the new iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max on your wish list, you have to keep your eyes peeled.

Retailers sell the hot-ticket items as soon as they hit stores, and many have to wait six weeks. News that the main iPhone factory has closed due to a coronavirus outbreak is expected to have a further impact on stock levels.

Those after the new iPhone 14 Pro may need to be flexible in color or face a wait of up to eight weeks.  photo / apple
Those after the new iPhone 14 Pro may need to be flexible in color or face a wait of up to eight weeks. photo / apple

Matinvesi-Bassett said a global shortage of components was to blame for New Zealand’s lack of technology.

“The situation has improved from a year ago, but factories manufacturing components and products are still not running at full efficiency due to Covid-19 lockdowns and staff shortages.

“Logistics problems also made it difficult to obtain the raw materials.”

Buyers are encouraged to be flexible and be prepared to avoid disappointment and empty space under the tree in December.

For a specific tool, book, toy, or tech gadget that can’t be replaced, it pays to jump in quickly.

“One of our top tips for successful sale shopping is to be well prepared – don’t leave things to the last minute,” said Matinvesi-Bassett.

“If there is a storage problem, buyers should try to be flexible. For example, use a product comparison site like PriceSpy to try and compare alternative products side-by-side.”

Fruit World group general manager Steve Higgs said flexibility in food choices will also be key.

“The increased demand, particularly during the Christmas week, will impact anything containing the word berry.

“Customers tend to buy these as late as possible for maximum freshness.”

Higgs said the staff shortage has hit the fruit industry hard.

Strawberries are a staple on the Christmas table and are expected to be in scarcer supply this year.  Photo / Babiche marten
Strawberries are a staple on the Christmas table and are expected to be in scarcer supply this year. Photo / Babiche marten

“Supply will also be affected by a potential shortage of fruit pickers or by challenging weather conditions in the run-up to Christmas such as rain or extreme heat, which may stress the berries.

“Melons such as watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon can also be challenging in terms of supply at this time of year as we are in the transition zone between processing imported Australian produce and starting local supply in New Zealand.”

The arrival of stone fruit is expected to be a little later than usual, according to a spokesman for Countdown supermarket.

“Recent weather has presented some challenges for our growers which means the start of the stone fruit season may be delayed somewhat, but once the Central Otago fruit is ripe we expect supply to come in right and we will have plenty of stone fruit available in time for Christmas.

“We also expect the cherries to be a little later than usual due to the weather, but it looks like we’ll still be fully stocked up for Christmas.”

That’s good news for summer salads stuffed with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce, which are expected to be available in full and at reasonable prices.

Big-box retailer Costco has already seen coveted decorations sell out. CEO Patrick Noone said the company had an “early in, early out” merchandise strategy so what was available one day was often gone the next.

“This is especially true for our non-food departments and seasonal items.”

No one said the new Westgate store would be well stocked with fresh produce over Christmas.

“For Christmas foods like ham, turkey and seafood, we work in advance with our suppliers to ensure adequate supplies for our members. However, it’s still best to get in early to avoid disappointment.”

The traditional Christmas ham could be replaced with chicken when supplies run short due to staff and packaging shortages.
The traditional Christmas ham could be replaced with chicken when supplies run short due to staff and packaging shortages.

Bottlenecks are also expected to hit the toy market.

If Gabby’s Dollhouse, LOL Tots, Care Bears and Monster Jam RC Trucks are on your child’s wish list, be warned – supplies are limited.

Planet Fun CEO Jeremy Kirk-Smith said that despite supply chain improvements over last year, there are still challenges.

Shortages were also expected in popular toys like Rainbow High dolls, Disney Encanto and big Pikachu stuffed animals.

Gabby's Dollhouse is a popular children's toy from the Netflix show of the same name and is a scarce item at Christmas.  Photo / PlanetFun
Gabby’s Dollhouse is a popular children’s toy from the Netflix show of the same name and is a scarce item at Christmas. Photo / PlanetFun

Toys based on the popular Netflix and YouTube show Gabby’s dollhouse have limited availability in New Zealand.

“The toys sold out as soon as they hit shelves in the US, so NZ had to wait,” Kirk-Smith said.

“The supply is still limited.”

Big stuffed animals like the Care Bears range and Pokemon are in short supply as their continued popularity strains material supplies and busy factories.

Kirk-Smith said toys are fairly recession-proof because of the joy they bring to children.

And with the cost-of-living crisis hitting hard, toys could be bought to fit most budgets.

“If you choose the right brand and toy, a child can be just as happy with a cheap gift as with a high-quality one.”