Hatchimals, the hottest toy this holiday season, have flown off toy store shelves with only a glimpse of hope that parents will be able to find more before Christmas.
The latest toy craze involves interactive stuffed animals that a child gets to help hatch and then teach to walk, talk and play. It's similar to a Furby that hatches from an egg, adorably poking through its sparkling shell when you rub it.
Hatchimals, geared for children between the ages of 5 to 10, can't be found anywhere, according to retailers. Suburban toy store owners and retail stores say they are getting calls from panicked parents all day long.
"What a crazy phenomena," said Rick Derr, owner of Learning Express in Lake Zurich. Derr, like retailers across the country, was told that it will be tough to get another shipment of the toys before January. "Sure, I wish I had more," said Derr, who feels fortunate that he ordered some of the Hatchimals over the summer for the launch of the toy in early October.
Once the kids saw it and word spread, sales of the furry animals "exploded in November," Derr said. Spin Master, the Canadian manufacturer of the toy, was not expecting the huge demand, Derr said. "It took off too quick," he said, leaving the company scrambling to restock. Spin Master's website announced Tuesday, the day after the Cyber Monday rush, that more of the toys are coming. But there are not details as to when or where.
Hatchimals is a two-phased gift -- you first care for the egg to encourage the bird to hatch from a colorful eggshell that's about two-thirds the length of a football. "I'd say 30 to 40 percent of the value is how it hatches. You have to nurture it, rub it and keep it warm," Derr said of the process that takes about a half-hour.
Once outside its shell, the furry little creature evolves as it interacts with the child. "It has wants and needs to grow from an infant to a toddler to a kid," Derr said. This includes the ability to train the bird to move, dance, repeat words and later, play games.
Perhaps all this helps justify the sticker price that ranges from $60 to $70.
But price seems no barrier to some parents, who, in a frenzy, are paying what seems to be the going rate of anywhere between $150-499 for Hatchimals on eBay and Amazon.
The creatures have also been found, but are sold out, at Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us and Kohl's.
Retail experts say there is always a popular toy during the holidays, but this one ranks way up there and is on a scale similar to past holiday successes such as Cabbage Patch Kids dolls in 1983-84 or the Tickle Me Elmo plush toy in 1996.
"It's all about the marketing and the hype when it comes to the toy industry," Derr said.