TAIWAN CHIPS

Despite well-publicised price cuts in November, retailers such as Amazon, Tesco, Asda and Toys R Us have been quietly pushing up the price tickets on 'must-have' toys.

Some of the rises are dramatic: for example a Matt Smith Eleventh Doctor sonic screwdriver, normally on sale at £12.99, was retailing on Amazon at £29.99 last week - a 130% increase.

What's going on?

Simple seasonal profiteering, or scalping as it's known inside the industry. A Mirror investigation saw a large price hike for Lego City Coast Patrol, climbing from £12.99 to £29.99.

Alan Simpson, of the Toy Retailers Association told the paper that some shops "are using toys as a tool to drive footfall through their doors and sell other goods." He added: "If there is something in short supply these unscrupulous suppliers will milk it any way they can."

For example, look at the price of the Flutterbye Fairy Flying Doll from Toys R Us. This has soared from £23.99 to £34.99. Close to a 50% jump. It's a similar price-jump story on a range of other popular toys, including the Nerf Elite Rapidstrike foam gun, selling at Asda for £35 compared to £25.

Barking

AOL Money looked at the Teksta Robotic Puppy, claimed to have more than 100 physical and interactive gestures. Earlier in the year it was selling through Toys R Us for under £47. That price has now crept up to £59.99.

The Teksta price news was even more barking on Amazon where the little robotic pup had soared to £72.49 in price plus £5.13 for delivery, taking the total price to £77.62 (at time of writing, 16 Dec).

How to avoid being ripped off? At this time of year, it's difficult. Demand in many cases is matching or exceeding supply. Some retailers, well aware spending will be tight for many families, will have cut inventories to avoid heavy discounting.

The alternative is to wait - groan - for the sales. That's tough on the kids, who often have the haziest idea of cost. But it rams home the lesson of planning well in advance (Sept-November). On the other hand, there's always a book...