| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Jan 17 A few days before New Year's,
my daughter came upon the free iPad app for the Furby Boom and
fell in love with the toy.
I usually do not fall prey to her whimsical wants, but with
her 6th birthday approaching, it seemed like good timing to buy
the toy, which is an interactive stuffed animal that responds to
human voices and commands from the app.
I thought I could pop into a discount chain and pick one up
on a post-Christmas sale. Then I learned that buying a Furby
Boom was like playing the stock market.
The roly-poly fuzz ball, which is the latest iteration of a
craze that started in 1998, sells out at most stores. It trades
online at a premium high above its manufacturer's suggested
retail price of $59.
Since November, retail prices have fluctuated from a low of
$29 to more than $100.
When is the best time to buy a Furby Boom? To figure that
out, I assessed price data to identify the timing of the next
Experts have access to up-to-the-minute price and inventory
information, but consumers don't have much more than real-time
price comparisons. It takes digging to find historical data, and
you need a prognosticator to time the next price dip.
Conventional wisdom is that Black Friday is not a good time
to buy toys because they go on sale in December, but that did
not apply to popular toys during the 2013 holiday season. Some
manufacturers kept inventory tight and prices high.
You probably paid more if you waited to buy toys like the
bow-and-arrow set Nerf Rebelle; the Doc McStuffins Get Better
Checkup Center, a souped-up medical kit; and Big Hugs Elmo, the
latest mechanical Elmo creation.
Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of timetoplaymag.com, a toy
information resource, is one of those experts who advise that
Black Friday is not the best time to buy toys. Instead, he
suggests buying in early November or late December.
"What I've always said is buy early and buy late," Silver
says. The caveat: His advice does not apply to the most popular
toys of the season.
Given advanced inventory control and big-data assessments of
buyer behavior, conventional when-to-buy advice applies to a
smaller amount of products each year.
"It's that Catch-22: If your child wants it, it's probably
not going to go on sale," Silver says.
His assessment of my chance of finding a Furby Boom on sale
in the near future: "Slim to none."
SHOPPING PRE-HOLIDAY SALES
With tallies now in, what happened during the holiday
shopping period was that retailers shifted to offer good prices
before the holidays rather than after, something consumers
should take note for the next holiday season.
According to MarketTrack data for 2013, the week
encompassing Black Friday was when most popular toys hit their
low price for the holiday season. There were also several price
lows in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving as retailers offered
sales well ahead of the holidays.
As for the price trajectory of the Furby Boom, it hit its
low price over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at Walmart
and Toys R Us stores. The price ballooned to $40 on
Amazon.com, and has since gone into hockey-stick mode.
MarketTrack also determined that the prices of the majority
of hot toy items increased after January 1, 2014.
One factor keeping prices high into January is low
inventories. According to data from Panjiva, a data firm, Furby
Boom maker Hasbro Inc did not produce a large amount of
the toy in December, so stores have limited quantities.
January inventory numbers are not yet available, but Josh
Green, Panjiva's founder and CEO, predicts that those numbers
will jump. Prices, however, won't necessarily go down, he
"The really dangerous spot for retailers is when your
competitors are able to restock and satisfy demand. But if
everyone had trouble, chances are there will still be demand
when Furby finally arrives," Green says.
High demand, of course, means slim probability of price
While prices will remain high for popular toys, retailers
might have flash sales as they get shipments and try to entice
customers back to stores. Target temporarily lowered the
price on some Furby models (purple houndstooth, anyone?) to
Otherwise, toy sales are possible around Easter, Silver
To find out when an item will be on sale, sign up for online
price alerts. Online retailers, along with third-party
aggregators such as dealnews.com and even Pinterest, track
prices. Timetoplaymag.com, which has a price comparison tool for
toys, is launching an alert feature next month.
As for my daughter, her chances of getting a Furby Boom for
her birthday are looking pretty good. She is keeping her room
clean and doing her homework, and while that's probably the only
the deal I'm going to get, it's good enough for me.