Just 94 days until Christmas! Why a Midstate toy store owner says that might not be enough time

Consumer

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — Jen Swanner’s advice: Buy toys now!

Granted, she’s not the most objective person to be giving that advice. She is, after all, the owner of The Curious Little Playhouse. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad advice.

That’s because toymakers are feeling the impact of supply chain issues that are hitting numerous areas of the economy.

Thinking about Christmas by… oh… January isn’t new for a toy store owner, but Swanner says some of what’s happening in 2021 is new: “I was told that if I didn’t have my final holiday order in by August, that I may not get one,” she said.

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Her biggest toy supplier is Connecticut-based Melissa & Doug. She says at first, she wondered whether the message was just a sales tactic to create urgency. But she says just as she’s not bluffing when she suggests consumers buy toys early, she realized the manufacturer wasn’t kidding either.

Shipping bottlenecks and an unreliable supply of wood have lead to uncertainty. Another piece of advice from Swanner that’s only partly self-serving: Consider alternatives to toys and other material gifts.

“Any kind of experience, whether it’s the bowling alley or a hands-on kids’ play space … or a movie theater or whatever the experience might be — experiences make great gifts for kids,” she said. (Her store includes a kids’ play space but not a bowling alley or movie theater.)

A few years ago, long lead times seemed like a relic in a just-in-time world.

“We live in a society in our current world where we just want what we want, and we want it right now,” Swanner said.

If that also sounds particularly true of the demographic that plays with toys, well — with the new need for advance holiday gift-giving planning — that’s not the only thing adults have more in common than ever with children.

“It doesn’t help that the kids are already talking about Christmas gifts, right?” joked Philip Given, a father of two children, ages 9 and 7, and owner of the York City Pretzel Company next door to Swanner’s store.

Oh, and yes: Supply chain issues are impacting the pretzel business too.

“Holiday shipping deadlines are a full four weeks earlier than they were last year,” Given said.

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