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St Elmo's Fire

St Elmo's Fire

A couple of weeks travelling to, from and around North America recently meant I consumed volumes of magazines and newspapers while on planes and in hotel rooms. It was mid-November and Christmas was not only in the air, but in the lead-up to Thanksgiving it was ubiquitously in print. In short order I became expert in the "hot gifts" of Christmas 2006.

In the past, my focus on "hot gifts" was limited to tearing out the Vogue magazine page with the "Top 10 Luxury Christmas Gifts for Her" and handing it to my husband with appropriate gifts circled. Long ago I found that what I want for Christmas and subtlety do not mix, but times have changed. The arrival of my granddaughter Lily four years ago now means I have to stay on top of cool toys in general because, well, I have to be a cool grandmother. So while I still check the "Top 10 Luxury Christmas Gifts for Her" lists, I now also peruse lists of "Top 10 Christmas Toys".

Enter Tickle Me Extreme Elmo, better known as TMX Elmo, stage right.

I'm a fast learner, and after scanning a handful of Top 10 Christmas Toys of 2006 lists, it was blatantly obvious that TMX Elmo was the hot toy for Christmas. It was Katie-bar-the-door. For 11 straight days TMX Elmo became my Mission from God (that's a reference to The Blues Brothers, not Mel Gibson, by the way). Lily must get TMX Elmo, ergo I must purchase a TMX Elmo.

I could not find a TMX Elmo.

I was in big- and mid-size cities and small towns, and checked toy stores and departments in each when I had time - sold out signs haunted me. I could have tried the eBay route where Mr E was going at double or triple the RRP, but I remained resolutely optimistic, which was a mistake. Ultimately I came up empty on TMX Elmo.

At one point, while on yet another plane, I was reading The Wall Street Journal and came across a story, "Trouble in Toyland", which chronicled the problems manufacturers and retailers were having with supply and demand regarding the various "hot" toys this Christmas. Evidently the day after TMX Elmo debuted, the president of Mattel brands Neil Friedman saw sales results and realized TMX Elmo was going to be big, and that demand would far outstrip supply. According to the WSJ story, Friedman quickly brought his team together and "the group determined how far they could press factories and suppliers of raw material". The story goes on to say that Mattel was able to increase production of TMX Elmo by 30 percent. A notable feat.

But back to my TMX Elmo quest, although I had pretty much abandoned it upon my return home. Abandoned, that is, until I read one of the Sydney Morning Herald supplements this past weekend, and there right before my eyes was a picture of little ol' TMX Elmo. I logged on to the computer, but the joke was on me. This site was not a shopping site but pretty much just an electronic stock list that directed me to David Jones, and DJs is not - well, let's be politic here - exactly a paragon of online shopping.

But this story is now drawing to a close, because later that day my granddaughter came for a visit and I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. "Princess Genevieve Barbie," she said. (Well, so much for TMX Elmo, it seems.)

So here are the takeaways from my TMX Elmo quest: 1. Real-time information is changing the supply chain (neat). 2. Before you go crazy trying to give someone (be it a business unit manager, the CEO or your granddaughter) what you think they want, you should find out what they want (sweet). 3. Online shopping continues to suck in Australia (beat).

Meanwhile, hopefully you'll have a happy holiday season and a great break. (I know I will because I delivered my "Top 10 Luxury Christmas Gifts for Her" page to Mr K.)

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