Tara Matthews is not normally an early Christmas shopper.
But this year, the Menands mom of four knew the only way to get the one thing her kids wanted was to start the hunt for L.O.L. Surprise toys as early as possible.
“They’re the only things my daughters asked for this year,” said Matthews.
Her three daughters, ranging from ages 5 to 9, have been asking for the toys for the last two months. L.O.L. Surprise toys — which stands for Little Outrageous Little Surprise — come in small balls that children unwrap to get to the doll or pet at the heart of the ball. As the toys are unwrapped little clues about what sort of doll the ball contains pop out, as well as accessories for the doll. In most chain retailers, the toys run from $10.99 to $79.99.
As any parent/teacher/aunt/uncle knows, most kids love surprises. For the past few years, “unboxing” toys have topped the most popular toy lists across the country. But there’s nothing quite like the L.O.L. Surprise craze that’s taken over this holiday season.
“It’s been a growing interest in the last few years. It’s called blind packaging,” said Kevin Murphy, the store manager of G. Willikers Toys and Games in Albany. Although the store doesn’t carry the toys, they’ve been getting calls about the toy. Blind packaging, where the buyer doesn’t quite know what they’re getting, has really taken off and Murphy says L.O.L. Surprise is just the next level.
According to NDP Group, a market research firm, the L.O.L. Surprise Doll Assortment toy will be the number one toy of the holiday season, closely followed by Fingerlings Monkey Assortment and then the L.O.L. Surprise Lil Sister Assortment.
After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some of the local stores were sold out earlier this week, including the Toys “R” Us in Colonie. Associates there said that customers have hardly stopped calling about the toy since the craze kicked in a few weeks ago. Luckily for Capital Region parents (and kids), as of Tuesday, the Clifton Park location had (some of) the toys in stock.
Earlier this week, Matthews drove from downtown Albany to Clifton Park when a friend called to say that the Toys “R” Us had them. She bought four and called her mom, who drove up and bought four others for friends who couldn’t leave work to snag the toys.
“People were pissed because there was none left [after us],” Matthews said.
According to a Toys “R” Us spokesperson, more stock will be shipped to stores across the country and people should call before going to their local store.
“We definitely named the LOL Big Surprise to our Hot Toy List and Geoffrey’s Top 20 because we knew this was item was going to be among the most sought-after toys of the holiday season,” said the spokesperson.
Other area big-box retailers like Target and Wal-Mart have some of the toys in stock, although parents should call ahead to be sure because they’re in high demand.
The popularity of the L.O.L. Surprise toys has been helped along by the many “unboxing” videos kids have uploaded to YouTube. Most have thousands, if not millions of views.
“That’s how my oldest found out about them,” Matthews said. Kaitlyn, the oldest daughter, started watching the unboxing videos on YouTube and eventually started showing her younger siblings, who quickly became enthralled with the dolls.
For local toy sellers, this is nothing new.
Murphy said there’s always one toy craze per holiday season that people try to buy up and profit off of, using either E-Bay or Amazon.
“Around this time last year it was Hatchimals,” Murphy said.
But for parents of young kids, the craze can make for a tough toy hunt.
“It’s kind of insane. ... I’ve turned into this crazy Christmas mom that I always said I wouldn’t be,” Matthews said.
Though Matthews has also been helping other parents in her search for the L.O.L. Surprise toys and in her search for Fingerlings, another popular toy that has been difficult to get. The Fingerlings are similar to Hatchimals in that the toy monkeys are interactive. Matthews said fellow parents have been trading different editions of the Fingerlings and the L.O.L. Surprise toys to help each other out.
“I think I’ve done good this year,” Matthews said, shortly after a successful trip to Toys “R” Us.