Lego shortage leaves independent stores with empty shelves

Children hoping to find Lego under their trees this Christmas may be disappointed as a shortage is leaving the shelves empty in some toy stores.

Lego spokesman says popularity of 2014 animated movie is behind shortage

Evelyn Gould is the co-owner of Jester's Fun Factory toy store in Fergus, Ont. She is holding Bric Tek, toy building sets that are alternatives to buying Lego, but still work with Lego sets. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

Children hoping to find Lego under their trees this Christmas may be disappointed as a shortage is leaving the shelves in some toy stores empty.

Store owners in Ontario first realized they may be short of the popular building blocks as early as August when orders were only partially filled.

By the fall, many retailers had their orders cancelled entirely.

"In October they told us on our invoice that all of our back orders were now cancelled and just please reorder. Nobody called us to tell us this was happening. That's the only way we found out,” said Cheryl Flood, owner of Hobby and Toy Central in Kitchener.

It was a similar experience for Evelyn Gould, owner of Jester’s Fun Factory in Fergus.

She said she called Lego after a customer had requested a product that she had ordered earlier in the year.

"They said, ‘Oh, well we cancelled all the orders, there's a shortage.’ And I said, ‘Well weren't you going to tell us about this?’ And they said, ‘Well there's a letter you're going to get in the mail.’ We've never seen a letter," said Gould. 

Lego says increased demand behind shortage

Gould says she placed an order for the year with Lego in January, but had all of her preorders for the last quarter of the year cancelled at the end of August. 

"It's not just the independent store that they've put on the back burner, but those kinds of customers that want to support those independent stores," said Gould. 

But Lego says it has been in touch with retailers from Day 1.

“Any adaptations to existing orders were proactively communicated as we took measures to ensure products could be distributed to as many retailers as possible,” said Michael McNally, Lego’s senior director of brand relations, in an email to CBC from the company's North American office in Connecticut. 

McNally said there's no shortage, but rather that there has been increased demand, which he attributed in part to the success of the animated The Lego Movie released earlier this year.

That has left shoppers, including Reynald Tremblay, scrambling to find Lego in time for Christmas. He has spent weeks searching for the toy for his niece and nephew.

"Not every store seems to be having the full sets or full stock, so it's having to hit two, three, four stores to find all the items you were looking for or changing what you're looking for," said Tremblay.