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Hard-to-find holiday gifts
Nintendo's new DS game player and other hot sellers are difficult to locate this holiday season.
December 9, 2004: 12:21 PM EST
By Jilian Mincer, CNN/Money contributing writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - It doesn't matter if you've been naughty or nice, you might not find that Nintendo DS, Microsoft XBox or Sony PlayStation 2 under the tree for the holidays.

Demand is so high and supply so tight that even Santa's running out of time, according to retailers and people who track the electronics industry.

"They come and they go," said Abe Brown, a spokesman for J&R Music and Computer World in New York about Nintendo DS, which wasn't in stock Tuesday. "As soon as we get some, we sell out."

Nintendo said Thursday it will boost total shipments of Nintendo DS to North America by 40 percent, to 1.4 million systems, before the end of the year in response to consumer demand.

Sony is also utilizing expensive air shipments to re-supply its PS2 to key retailers in North America, P.J. McNealy, analyst at American Technology Research, said in a statement. Each video-game console could cost Sony an additional $10 to $20 for air shipping, he added.

While early holiday sales numbers for all the products weren't immediately available, demand has been so hot that industry analysts are expecting a merry holiday season for electronics retailers.

"We think that it could be a landmark year," said Anita Frazier, an entertainment industry analyst for the NPD Group, a market research firm. "They're definitely on the top of everyone's Christmas list."

Other popular holiday items include digital cameras, satellite radios and plasma-screen televisions, according to industry analysts.

"Prices are coming down, and they have the features and benefits people want," said Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis for NPD. One example he cited is plasma TVs. Two years ago they sold for about $3,000, but they're about half that price this year.

But that's no consolation for shoppers in search of the Nintendo DS, which sold more than 500,000 units when it was released in the United States over the Thanksgiving weekend. There was a similar response when the game was introduced last week in Japan.

"There is hope," said Beth Llewelyn, chief spokeswoman for Nintendo of America. "We are doing everything we can to get more products here."

The response has been so strong that Nintendo has twice raised its sales projections and hopes to sell 5 million of the units worldwide by the end of March.

In the meantime, prospects look grim for those with a Dec. 25 deadline.

EB Games, a popular Web site for buyers of video and other electronic games, advises shoppers that it's "now taking orders for 2005" for Nintendo DS players.

The product is very hard to find at either of the nation's two biggest electronics chains, Best Buy or Circuit City, and at other stores as well. Target's Web site, for example, says the product will be available in four to eight weeks.

"We can't replenish fast enough," said Lori Milovich, director of public and investor relations at GameStop Corp., which sells electronics at stores and via the Internet. "As soon as we get them, we're sending them right out."

How do you find one of those coveted Nintendo systems? "It seems to be luck," said Milovich. "It's being in the right place at the right time."

Shoppers also are having a hard time finding the XBox and new, smaller PlayStation2, which are selling briskly.

"We're getting them in regularly, but they're leaving quickly," said Brian Lucas, a spokesman at Best Buy headquarters in Minneapolis.

His advice to shoppers: call stores to find out when shipments are arriving.

"In short, if you see it in the stores, and you're thinking about it, buy it," he said.

John Taylor, a video game industry analyst with Arcadia Investment Corp., said Microsoft has been off guard since May, when it cut the price of the XBox.

Video Games

"Consumers responded more favorably, and it's been playing catchup ever since," he said.

Similarly, Sony wasn't prepared when sales of its PlayStation picked up after a May price cut. Production problems also prevented Sony from producing enough PlayStation 2 units, Taylor said.

"We underestimated the excitement from our current users," said Janette Barrios, public relations specialist for Sony's PlayStation division. "We're doing all we can [to increase availability]."

Another popular item: Apple's iPods. While there have been sporadic shortages, most stores are quickly restocking or consumers are choosing other brands.

"It's small, it's cool," said Gordon Friend at Harvey Electronics in New York. "We run out and get them back in again."

Almost 6 million iPods have been sold since they were introduced in 2001, according to Apple. That includes more than 2 million in the third quarter.

"We're selling hundreds a day," said J&R's Brown. "Everybody feels you have to be part of the MP3 culture. It's very useful as well."  Top of page

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