Well-Off Parents Giving Used Christmas Gifts Amid Supply-Chain Crunch

  • Supply-chain points have restricted shares of scorching Christmas toys, main well-off dad and mom to purchase used.
  • One mother or father paid practically 4 occasions the retail worth for a secondhand model of a hard-to-find toy.
  • Just a few dad and mom are taking benefit, flipping toys on Facebook Marketplace for a revenue.

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For the previous six weeks, all of Chrissy Vanderwerff’s spare moments have been consumed by securing the final Christmas reward on her purchasing listing: a Gabby’s Dollhouse for her 5-year-old daughter. 

“I used to be refreshing Target’s and Walmart’s web sites prefer it was my job. It actually grew to become an obsession,” the Chicago native defined. The 2-foot-tall, cat-shaped dollhouse — central to the wildly common



sequence of the identical identify — is taken into account one of many “hottest toys of the year.” And due to supply-chain backlogs, it is also the toughest to search out. 

At the suggestion of a fellow mother or father, Vanderwerff lastly secured a Gabby’s Dollhouse doing one thing she’d by no means completed earlier than — shopping for a present secondhand. She discovered a used Gabby’s Dollhouse on Mercari for $200, virtually quadruple its $54.99 retail worth. It was price it, she mentioned. 

“I’ve by no means purchased one thing used as a present earlier than, however I’ve been so determined to get my palms on it that it appeared like the best choice,” Vanderwerff mentioned. “It feels bizarre to provide one thing used as a present, however a minimum of on Christmas morning she’ll have it, and I doubt she’ll discover any distinction.” 

Since September, retail consultants have warned of supply-chain delays, shortages, and supply points wreaking havoc on vacation purchasing. Foreboding “Don’t wait!” headlines, information of choked ports on the West Coast, and issues about counterfeit toys from third-party sellers have whipped dad and mom right into a froth. 


Echoing the hysteria of the 1996 Tickle Me Elmo craze, dad and mom have shaped non-public Facebook teams similar to Gabby’s Dollhouse Search, which describes itself as dad and mom “serving to one another discover Gabby’s Dollhouses,” and Hard to Find Christmas Gifts in Chicago, which posts each day experiences of shops restocking scorching gadgets, together with “Mario Kart” Hot Wheels Rainbow Tracks, Xbox Series Xs, and “My Little Pony” Adventures Collections. In metro Detroit, faculty newsletters have included intel on “learn how to discover toys” and “some native toy shops you might need missed.”

A child examines a shelf full of toys.

While there are many toys on cabinets, dad and mom searching for particular gadgets might wrestle to search out them, trade consultants say.

John Minchillo/AP


As this new-toy frenzy exacerbates the provision crunch, upper-middle-class suburban dad and mom have begun turning to another: the secondhand world that is been there all alongside. 

Parents are competing with ‘grown-ass males’ in eBay bidding wars

In interviews with a dozen dad and mom, the hunt for used toys was a standard theme.

A mother from Chicago’s rich Hinsdale, Illinois, suburb mentioned she obsessively scrolled Facebook Marketplace to safe the Squishmallows she could not discover in shops. A software program developer in Oakland, California, boasted of creating a fast $5 to $10 by promoting his children’ used Magna-Tiles and Tonka vans. And dad and mom in a personal Facebook help group for mothers who’d as soon as been squeamish about clearance gadgets at shops described getting aggressive in eBay bidding wars over used Galactic Snackin’ Grogus — the interactive dolls that permit children to feed the “Star Wars” character higher generally known as Baby Yoda.

“I’ve been not directly competing with grown-ass males for ‘Spidey and His Amazing Friends’ toys,” mentioned Krista Kirkpatrick of Rochester Hills, Michigan. Her 3-year-old daughter desires the set of 3-inch Marvel collectible figurines, which usually retails for $20. The set is now promoting for upwards of $130 on eBay and Facebook Marketplace.

“Every time I attempted to purchase the rattling toys, they have been offered out as a result of adults are hoarding them and reselling them for 5 occasions their worth,” Kirkpatrick mentioned. “They know dad and mom and collectors will purchase. It’s loopy — they’re made for preschoolers!”

Experts say the supply-chain crunch is hitting dad and mom who’re in search of particular toys the toughest. 

“It’s not such as you’ll stroll right into a retailer and never see any toys on the shelf,” mentioned Adrienne Appell, the senior vice chairman of promoting and communications on the Toy Association, the trade’s commerce group. “It’s the choice that’s going to be a difficulty.” 

The hottest toys are sometimes unattainable to foretell, Appell defined. “The toy trade could be very, very trend-driven. And on the finish of the day, it is the youngsters who make that call. Parents are going to wish to make the vacations magical for his or her children, so if there’s a product that they are asking for, lots of dad and mom are going to maneuver heaven and earth to search out that product.” 

That was Valerie Phelps’ place when her daughter requested for one of many 12 months’s most unattainable gifts: a Magic Mixies Cauldron. “It’s primarily a toy cauldron for mixing potions, after which a stuffed animal pops out,” Phelps mentioned. 

When her daughter wrote a letter to Santa in October, full with glued-in footage of the cauldron, Phelps, conscious of the toy shortages, ordered it from Amazon straight away. It was scheduled to reach on December 1, however in November, the supply date was pushed to January 11.

Phelps hit the online to go looking secondhand marketplaces, the place sellers have been hawking used Magic Mixies for as much as triple the retail worth. Ultimately, she obtained fortunate: A Target two hours away had a set nonetheless on the pallet within the again. Her husband made the drive. 

A child plays with a toy Magic Mixies cauldron.

A toddler performs with a Magic Mixies cauldron, one of many most-sought-after toys of the 2021 vacation season.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The ‘excellent Christmas morning’ comes at a price, particularly for moms

This high-stakes gift-giving stress is what Shawn M. Burn refers to because the “Santa Claus downside.” 

Burn, a professor of psychology at California Polytechnic State University and the writer of a e-book on “dysfunctional giving,” mentioned Christmas within the US was “very gift-centric.” She added, “This is partly the results of relentless promoting and advertising and marketing, which promote a materialist vacation.”

“Many Americans inform younger kids that presents are magically produced and delivered by Santa Claus,” Burn mentioned. “Parents, notably moms, should actualize the Christmas fantasy for his or her kids to keep away from disappointing them on Christmas Day. Given all the extra difficulties our kids have confronted because of COVID-19, dad and mom might really feel much more stress to provide their kids the proper Christmas morning.” 

For Beth Beyer’s children, Christmas is a uncommon alternative for “regular” after a troublesome previous few years which have included COVID and her husband’s deployment as a Navy reservist.

“I had Amazon want lists prepped by the tip of August in order that we might have loads of time to get alternates in case a toy did not work out,” mentioned Beyer, who lives in Detroit. For years, she’d been eyeing an easel from Ikea that was frequently out and in of inventory.

“I ended up utilizing some PTO to drive the hour to Ikea for pickup in September, after I managed to snag one,” Beyer mentioned. “I coordinated


Santa as a result of I did not need my children to overlook out on one more factor. Christmas is one huge spotlight for them, and I simply wished it to really feel that approach.”

That’s a standard perspective amongst mothers, mentioned Karen Liska, a life coach. “In my expertise, and from what I see from pals and training shoppers, reward purchasing is a part of the ‘psychological load’ of what mothers are inclined to tackle. Particularly in heteronormative white households, the custom of holidays appears to incorporate lots of work being completed by the mom within the family.”

Attitudes towards secondhand presents are altering quick

While the resale market has surged in recent times, growing 21 times as fast because the broader

retail sector

, re-commerce for presents largely stays taboo. But that could be altering. 

In a November examine commissioned by Mercari, the retail analytics agency GlobalData found that 77% of adults polled deliberate to purchase a minimum of one secondhand merchandise this vacation season. 

The examine projected that buyers would spend $69.2 billion on secondhand vacation gadgets, up 24% from final 12 months. While a majority of respondents mentioned saving cash was their largest purpose for purchasing secondhand, 10% mentioned they might achieve this due to supply-chain points. 

A worker in an Amazon warehouse packages toys for shipping.

Amazon has been out of inventory of many common toys, driving dad and mom to purchase secondhand.

Guillaume Souvant/AFP by way of Getty Images

For many dad and mom who might in any other case afford brand-new presents, the most important hurdle to acceptance was overcoming the “ew” issue. “Especially throughout COVID, it is onerous for me to consider giving my child one thing that has been utilized by a stranger or a number of strangers,” mentioned Lindsay Olmetti in Los Angeles, who purchased her son a used Nintendo Switch on Facebook Marketplace. “It’s humorous,” she added. “I doubt my son would discover. It’s extra in my head.” 

Others really feel constrained by the cultural perception that presents must be brand-new. “I’m typically fairly open-minded about shopping for secondhand gadgets,” mentioned Bailey Faria, who lives in Chicago. “But there’s one thing about this being a present that makes me really feel prefer it must be new.”

A ‘paradigm shift’ in giving could possibly be higher for households — and the planet

But some dad and mom benefit from the ease of re-commerce.

“In a world the place each different 10-year-old boy desires a Galactic Snackin’ Grogu, it feels fairly good to be the dad that obtained one, regardless of the place it is from,” mentioned Kenny Rausch in Chicago, who purchased a used Baby Yoda toy for his son on Facebook Marketplace throughout his lunch break. 

Others have capitalized on the frenzy. 

When Rachel Friedman joined Facebook Marketplace to eliminate her son’s outgrown toys, she merely wished “a extra minimalist life-style.”

“But after I heard in regards to the toy scarcity, I noticed this could possibly be an awesome alternative,” mentioned Friedman, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Parents want toys!” And the earnings from “something we offered might go proper into my son’s presents for this 12 months,” she continued. 

It was a time-intensive course of — photographing gadgets, itemizing them, going forwards and backwards with potential consumers. But Friedman has now offered sufficient of her son’s gently used books, garments, Magna-Tiles, and classy Melissa & Doug toys to cowl the price of all his vacation presents this 12 months. And her customers, Friedman mentioned, have been stunned to see how well-cared-for used gadgets could possibly be.

The “ew” issue might have met its match in a pandemic-affected financial system the place children decide probably the most highly effective vacation currencies: Magic Mixies, Squishmallows, and “Paw Patrol” Cruiser Cars. And that could possibly be good for the society (and planet) these children are set to inherit, Burn mentioned. 

“I believe that we want a paradigm shift — not solely as a result of psychological analysis is evident that the happiness that materialism buys is fleeting however as a result of our present materialism comes on the expense of future environmental sustainability,” she continued. 

Burn added, “Perhaps if dad and mom thought extra about their client habits and its implications for the world their kids will inherit, it will present the energy to withstand the materialistic social paradigm.”

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