T.M.X. Elmo
Mark Lennihan  /  AP File
Have you seen Elmo? Chances are, you haven't. Unless you are willing to pay a pretty penny online.
updated 10/20/2006 3:10:32 PM ET 2006-10-20T19:10:32

One month since T.M.X. Elmo first laughed, slapped his knee and keeled over onto U.S. shoppers' stage, consumers' efforts to secure one of the now-scarce furry red dolls has become increasingly difficult.

The successor toy to Mattel's top-selling Tickle Me Elmo is sold out in many stores and online. And consumers are fuming at marketeers who have snapped up the dolls for resale at steep profits on eBay Inc. and other sites.

Mattel Inc.'s Fisher-Price division, which makes the doll, has said repeatedly that more dolls will ship in time for the crucial holiday season. The company denies holding back the toys from the market to drive up demand.

"Trust me, we want to sell Elmos," Robert Eckert, Mattel chairman and chief executive, told analysts this week. "We like cash flow around here, and we don't get cash unless we sell the toy."

But finding Elmo has become a struggle for many shoppers.

A search on the Toys "R" Us Web site says both the English and Spanish speaking versions of the doll are "temporarily not available online."

The retailer's flagship Times Square store put up a sign in the entrance saying the retailer is out of Elmos and not taking pre-orders.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has knocked the price of the doll down to $34.88 from its suggested $40 price, but the site says T.M.X. Elmo is out of stock.

Target Corp.'s Web site says the new Elmo is only available in stores. But calls to three different Target stores in different states found none with the doll in stock or any idea when they would be getting more.

Elmo fever is so high that some shoppers who snapped up T.M.X. are now trying to resell the dolls for a profit on sites like eBay and Amazon.com.

On eBay, users are offering "lots" of five or 10 new Elmos — with prices hovering around $100 per doll.

Video: T.M.X. Elmo revealed

A visit to Amazon.com offers a link to Amazon sellers who are offering the doll for prices ranging from $155 to $370.

Holiday cheer?
This does not sit well with Elmo enthusiasts.

"I am so disgusted with the people who go to retail stores, buy up every hot toy they can get their hands on, and then sell it for a massive profit on E-Bay," fumed one visitor to the Amazon site.

Others questioned why supply is limited for a doll that Mattel was betting would be a big hit.

"This is the classic case of supply and demand. Do you really think this toy would be so much in demand if toy store shelves were fully stocked with the things? Great lesson in mindless purchasing due to mass hysteria," another poster wrote.

When hot products suddenly become tough to get, questions are often raised about whether shortages are caused by manufacturers' limiting supplies to boost demand, rather than a product simply selling out.

But availability is often a dance between retailers and manufacturers. Retailers don't want to overstuff their shelves with an item before knowing how well it will sell. And manufacturers don't want to be stuck with excess inventory if a supposed hot toy flops.

Fisher-Price and Mattel executives insist they didn't intentionally limit the supply of the doll. But they acknowledge being caught off-guard by resurgent Elmo demand, even though it was heavily hyped in the media.

"We have a lot of experience of making Elmos every year, but nobody anticipated the first day response we had on this toy," Eckert said this week.

To calm shoppers, some retailers are now limiting the number of Elmos a customer can buy, and Mattel has promised many more shipments before the holidays.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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