Shortage of Christmas toys? Bah. humbug!

APOLOGIES for mentioning the C-word. Not “cuts”, for once, or even something ruder, but Christmas. The baubles are laid out in the shops earlier and earlier each year – they even out-materialised Hallowe’en paraphernalia in 2010 – but, surprisingly, I’m not that bothered this time around.

Either it’s because I’m inured to town centre lights going up during half-term or it’s because most of the attendant hype is missing this year. Everyone seems resigned to frugal festivities, with no yuletide quantitative easing to add sparkle. A box of Quality Street could be all we can muster.

That might be no bad thing, if it helps us realise that time with people we like is more fulfilling than material goods. A laugh costs nothing . . . unless you’re going to a Jimmy Carr stand-up show, in which case you might have to save up.

You can tell the industry is twitchy because the Toy Retailers’ Association has announced the “top toys for Christmas”.

I’ve never yet met a child who has been polled in the street and asked “What are you asking Santa for this year?” Cynics might suggest the manufacturers are trying to shift a mountain of Fireman Sams and Buzz Lightyears they over-ordered in previous years – both feature in the TRA’s latest list – by creating artificial demand. But as it’s very nearly the season of goodwill we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

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I’m intrigued one can snap up City Airport for �84.99 – a bargain when you consider BAA was looking for about �1.8bn for Gatwick in 2008.

Actually, I might mock, but it seems my family’s buying habits were pretty mainstream in the past. Maybe we weren’t as resistant to the powers of advertising as I like to imagine. I had an Action Man, Spirograph and Hot Wheels set – all “toys of the year” in the 1960s, while my sister dressed a Sindy (as well as cutting off its hair and pulling off a leg).

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Over subsequent decades the young folk of the household enjoyed Lego, Playpeople, Thunderbirds merchandise, Rubik’s cubes, Sylvanian Families and Beyblades – again, all top playthings, according to officialdom. (Peter Powell kites, apparently much sought after in 1976, passed me by, but I’d love to know what they were like. Can’t imagine a Chris Moyles kite getting off the ground today.)

I can now exclusively reveal the most-coveted toy for Christmas 2011: a Chad Valley My Own Student Loan kit, with interest-rate ready-reckoner and easy-to-complete declare-yourself-bankrupt forms. Don’t forget batteries.

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