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A 'Frozen' retail supply angers parents, saddens kids

Thursday - 4/17/2014, 6:48am  ET

Elsa.jpg
This image released by Disney shows Elsa the Snow Queen, voiced by Maia Mitchell, in a scene from the animated feature "Frozen." (AP Photo/Disney)

WASHINGTON -- When "Frozen" hit theaters last November, fans came out in droves to watch Disney's next classic animated story. The momentum carried over to the retail sector as dolls, dresses and figurines flew out of stores.

Now the shelves are bare, online retailers flash "out of stock" messages and limited-edition Elsa dresses sell for $1,200 on eBay. Parents are furious about the "Frozen" supply, and they're having a hard time letting it go.

"In the month of December, you were actually able to get the dolls and the other toys," says Jim Silver, editor in chief of TTPM, the leading consumer website for reviews, price comparison and product availability for toys, electronics and other merchandise.

As the popularity of the movie escalated, so did the demand for "Frozen" products.

"Retailers were ordering what they thought would be a five-week supply of ‘Frozen,' and they were sold out in five days," Silver says.

Frustrated parents have taken to The Disney Store's Facebook page to let the company know how disappointed their children will be come birthday mornings and weekend playdates.

One parent writes:

Disney is far too smart of a business and marketing machine to face out- of-stock situations like this for the "Frozen" merchandise. After visiting six retail stores, including a Disney Store, and more online stores than I can count in the past two weeks, I am completely disappointed with the lack of "Frozen" merchandise available. I will have one sad birthday girl who only wanted an Elsa costume for her birthday this year. And with the prices for these dresses on sites like eBay and Amazon, it's reminiscent of the Cabbage Patch craze of the 80s. Are you trying to drive demand and prices by limiting supply???

Another says:

This is ridiculous already. You must by now KNOW that "Frozen" became the hottest thing ever. I received a text saying there are items back in stock and I went to the website right away and the Elsa costume dress was already sold out in all sizes. Very disappointing. Ever since the movie came out, that's all my daughter keeps talking about and I never had a chance to get it; as soon as it comes available, it's already sold out.

Twitter is abuzz, as well:

Silver says the limited supply is not intentional.

"Companies don't want to leave sales on the table," he says. "They want to sell as much as there is demand and they're doing everything they can to get as much product here as soon as possible. But the demand is far exceeding supply."

And replenishing retail supplies is not as easy as flipping a switch.

Silver says it's typically a three- to five-month process to make the merchandise, send it through the proper safety checks, ship the goods to the U.S. and distribute the products to retailers.

"The manufacturers do not want to miss out on the opportunity, and they are trying to replenish the pipeline," says Silver, adding that the key manufacturers are Mattel and JAKKS Pacific.

Anne-Marie Grill, vice president of corporate communications at JAKKS Pacific, says the company is continuously shipping products to retailers, but the products are selling out as soon as they hit the shelves.

"We knew the movie would be popular, but it's become so successful that we're doing everything we can and working with our retail partners to get more products in stores," Grill says.

An Elsa dress from the Disney movie "Frozen" sells for nearly $1,200 on eBay. (WTOP Screen Shot)

Silver, who predicts it will take four to six months before supplies catch up, compares the demand for "Frozen" retail products to other toy crazes such as Pokémon and Furby.

"It's one of those crazes that the industry sees every few years," Silver says.

"The fans became obsessed with the movie. It's become one of the biggest box-office hits for Disney in the last 20 years, and kids really related to the characters … the music was phenomenal. It just engrossed the child."

Silver says the most popular "Frozen" merchandise items are Disney Frozen Music Magical Elsa and Anna dolls and the Elsa and Anna dresses. Grill says role-play accessories -- such as wands, tiaras and shoes -- are also quick to sell out.

And the demand for these items has only continued to increase since the DVD was released in March.

"As [kids] watch it over and over again, they become even more engrossed with the characters, fall in love, and they want to re-live this whole play experience at home," Silver says.

As far as advice for parents, eager to get their hands on anything "Frozen," Silver says to keep checking online, and to get to know the managers and stock employees at your local retail stores.

Disney didn't speak on the record about the "Frozen" shortage, but released the following statement:

"'Frozen' is a global phenomenon that has truly exceeded expectations on every level," said Margita Thompson, vice president for external communications with Disney Consumer Products. "We are thrilled that audiences formed instant connections with the characters and are working hard to get additional product into stores as soon as possible. Guests will see product continue to flow in throughout the summer (the Elsa dress should be back in stores later this month/early May), and stores are expected to be back in full stock by July/August."

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