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Holiday toy shortage, shipping backlog causing "an imperfect storm" for parents and retailers

Pandemic causes holiday gift delays
Pandemic causes even greater delays for popular holiday gifts 05:09

The nation's top toy sellers are facing an extreme toy shortage—with the season's most coveted gifts in high demand. Video game consoles like Sony's Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X|S have been sold out for weeks. 

"Here I go on a mission and I've tried going to the stores. I've waited in long lines. And it's just been, it's impossible," said Christina De Jesus, of Tampa, Florida. 

De Jesus traded scouring the malls to scouring online for any updates of potential restocks of the Playstation 5 console, which is on the top of her 8-year-old's Christmas list . She even set up a Twitter account to track announcements of new online sales.

"As soon as I clicked on it, it was sold out already. I don't even know how that's possible," De Jesus said.

High demand mixed with pandemic-related shipping delays have caused a nightmare for parents, retailers and manufacturers.

The backup has many toys left sitting in containers on ships sent from China, where 86% of toys and other products are manufactured according to industry experts.

"The manufacturers overseas all the way here to the port, everyone's backed up. Manufacturers can't keep up with the orders. They're producing as much as they can. ... the ships can only take so much cargo," said Gene Seroka, the director of the Port of Los Angeles. 

Even after the goods arrive in the United States, the toys could sit in those shipping containers for up to two days, Seroka told CBS News.

Online shopping and spending saw a boost this year as consumers prioritize safety over in-store shopping. 

Richard Gottlieb, a consultant for global toy companies, said the sudden surge of demand and increase of online sales is causing container ships to fill up quickly, leaving little room for toys. 

"We've been having trouble in the last few months getting containers to put the toys in and ship them from China. And that is largely due to the fact that there was a sudden surge in demand for toys and other consumer products. So there was a lot of catching up to do. When you put all of that together, it's kind of a perfect or an imperfect storm, " Gottlieb said. 

With Christmas just days away, the guarantee that everyone who wants the toys will get them in time is dwindling. 

The backlog has some people resorting to novel strategies to snag that hard-to-find product just in time for Christmas.

The "JJ Doll," based on a character from the YouTube series "Cocomelon Musical Bedtime," is considered the most in-demand toy of the holiday season. 

Rebecca Rhea, a mother out of Oklahoma, wanted to buy one for her 1-year-old grandson. Every time she found one of the dolls online she said it quickly sold out. After an intensive search she bought eight of the hard-to-locate dolls but paid a higher price. The dolls normally sell for $19.99 but Rhea purchased hers for double the price. 

She kept two of the dolls and gave away the rest to spread some holiday cheer.

"We got them just to give back basically, to give them to other people. …  We have nine kids, so we knew what it was like to not be able to give them the things that they wanted or to have to fight to get something that they did want," Rhea said.

The act of kindness had a domino effect. One person who received a doll for free from Rhea said she plans on paying it forward by buying gifts for the elderly in nursing homes, who can't see their families this year.

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