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Hot holiday gift items already sold out

9:21 PM, Dec 21, 2010   |    comments
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Bruce Horovitz and Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY

If it seems as though some last-minute gifts aren't available, the harsh truth is: Many are not.

Items ranging from some Kindles on Amazon.com to Monster High dolls at Toys R Us to fleece-lined flannel shirts at L.L. Bean are getting tough - and sometimes impossible - to find.

Retailers who got burned the last two holidays with extra inventory were more conservative when ordering this year. Others didn't know what items would be hits. And some consumers simply waited too long and now can't find what they want.

"This is not the year for consumers to play chicken with retailers," says Scott Krugman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation. "It was to be expected that the most-popular holiday merchandise would sell out. Once it's gone, it's gone."

Out-of-stock items are "becoming a high-quality problem as retailers continue to sell out of hot items," says a new report from investment firm Goldman Sachs. "Walmart is out of stock online for 76% of the items in our study, while Amazon and Target are both out of stock on over 40%."

One in three consumers surveyed this month by Consumer Reports said an item that they wanted was out of stock. And 70% said those out-of-stock items were advertised as being on sale.

"Erratic consumer behavior" all year made it hard for stores to feel comfortable about how much to order, says Madison Riley, managing partner at Kurt Salmon Associates, a retail consulting firm. "Quite frankly, retailers did the right thing."

Among the hard-to-find items:

•Kindle 3, at $139, is not available on Amazon.com. The website advises, "Due to overwhelming customer demand, Kindle (Wi-Fi) is temporarily out of stock." The site points out that the $189 Kindle 3G is available.

•Kohl's is sold out of a KitchenAid mixer on sale for $140. Consumers complained to BradsDeals.com that they were informed of this only after they'd already gone through the checkout process. Kohl's didn't respond to e-mails seeking comment.

•Old Navy's $5 pajama sale was so popular that all that's left online are large sizes or offbeat patterns, says retail analyst Jennifer Black.

•A $498 Coach satchel is "sold out everywhere," says Black, as well as most of Victoria Secret's Miraculous waist cinchers.

•Availability of Monster High dolls, Dance Star Mickey, Lalaloopsy dolls, Kinect for Xbox 360 and Teacup Piggies at Toys R Us will "vary from store to store," says spokesman Bob Friedland.

•L.L. Bean's $150 Bean Boots and $54 fleece-lined flannel shirts for men and women are out.

"We increased our inventory based on an assumption that there'd be 2% to 3% growth," says spokeswoman Laurie Brooks. But the chain is seeing apparel sales growth of 9% to 10%, she says.

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