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Lego shortage leads to 'online retailers inflating prices to cash in on demand'


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Lego shortage leads to 'online retailers inflating prices to cash in on demand'


A shortage of Lego on the High Street has lead to web retailers inflating prices to “cash in” in on the boom in the popular toy, it has been claimed.




Andrew Hough and Harry Wallop

Published: 7:30AM GMT 21 Dec 2009



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lego1_1544547c.jpg A large increase in demand for Star Wars Lego has lead to inflated prices online. Photo: BRIJESH PATEL


lego_1464119c.jpg Demand for Lego has increased by 25 per cent this year after an astonishing renaissance. Photo: REUTERS



High Street stores have been unable to meet the resurgence in demand for the building blocks, leading to prices being two to three times more expensive via the internet.

Lego has enjoyed a major revival with its sales up 25 per cent on last year, as parents track down traditional, well-made toys this Christmas.


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Leading store such as Argos, Tesco and Asda have sold out of the most popular ranges of the toy including Star Wars, Power Miners and Indiana Jones sets in the lead up to christmas.

Independent retailers, using the Amazon website to sell their products, are charging between two to three times the official listing prices of Lego.

A Lego Star Wars Clone Walker Battle Pack has an official price of £9.79 but on Amazon can fetch as much as £29.95 plus £5 for delivery via the website.

The official listing price for the Lego Indiana Jones Temple of Doom is £73.39.

The cheapest deal on Amazon is £144.99 plus shipping.

The inflated prices led to consumer advocates calling the retailers are “exploitative”.

The claims come just weeks after The Daily Telegraph disclosed that stocks of Lego were already "desperately low”. Most toy retailers bought their Christmas stock in February or January this year, at the depths of the recession, and were very conservative.

Figures from HM Revenue & Customs suggest that retailers have imported just £5.5 billion toys in the first nine months of this year – half the level of £11.2 billion imported in the same period a year ago.

This £5 billion drop in supply has led to shortages of the most popoular toys, such as Go Go Hamster, Waybuloo dolls, Hot Wheels racing cars and Lego turning up on the auction site eBay for sale at inflated prices.

Ed Mayo, the secretary general of Co-Operatives UK, the network of ethical businesses, called the moves “exploitative”.

“It’s an exploitative tactic to create a sense of scarcity, which means parents then feel compelled to spend over the odds,” he said.

“They are taking advantage of desperate parents in the run-up to Christmas.”

Gary Grant, chairman of the Toy Retailers Association who also runs the Entertainer chain of toy shops, said: “ Lego has just been phenomenal. Sales are up 25 per cent and would have been far higher if we had more stock. There is no Lego City, no Lego Star Wars. I only have enough stock left to fill the back of my car."

He put its success down to parents looking for traditional, trusted brands. Monopoly and other board games are also selling out, he added.

Presents such as books, perfume, CDs and toys are on average 17 per cent cheaper from online retailers than from high street shops, according to the watchdog Which?

The Boat that Rocked DVD, Star Wars Lego and a Barbie doll, were all cheaper on the web, sometimes significantly so.

In all cases, the online price included the cost of delivery.

A Lego spokesman was unavailable for comment as was an Amazon spokeswoman.

Tesco pointed out that it still had plenty of stock of its best-selling £29.99 Millennium Falcon Lego set, which is exclusive to the supermarket. Nick Cook, one of the toy managers at Tesco, said: "We’ve increased stocks of Lego to our stores over the last couple of days so parents can pick up those last minute presents whilst they’re doing their Christmas food shop.”

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