The new normal for releases will be “waves.” A limited supply of product upfront, then additional waves after release.
According to an announcement TPCi just sent to its distributors, Shining Fates will be printed in waves. TPCi publicly hinted at the same release method for Champion’s Path in October, tweeting that players can expect to see more shipments of the product after the set’s initial release. This was the only public acknowledgment from Pokemon that something unusual was occurring with their releases.
Pokemon’s not alone. In September, Magic: The Gathering publicly announced their upcoming products would be printed in waves. Why is this happening to Trading Card Games? The answer, as usual, is the pandemic.
Southern states like Texas and North Carolina are home to printing plants for Magic and Pokemon. They’ve also been hit hardest by Covid. Back in March, lockdown orders forced printing plants to shut down for 90 days because they’re not considered essential businesses. At the same time, demand for hobbies went through the roof as people stayed home. When printing plants resumed production, they not only had to catch up with their backlog, but needed to get ready for future releases. This created a supply and demand problem.
The end result is TCGs struggling to print their product. This is likely why Pokemon has shifted the release dates of their sets through summer 2021. It may also be why they aren’t printing Staff promos for the foreseeable future.
The situation is even worse for Europe. Their cards are printed at our printing plants and then shipped overseas months in advance. Their first wave, which is also limited, is largely allocated to big box retailers. This doesn’t leave much product for hobby shops to order. For recent sets, some products were never available to hobby shops because they were allocated to retail chains.
While you should try to find Pokemon TCG products as they become available, it’s best to adjust your expectations. During the pandemic there isn’t as much product immediately available. Other fans also want product more than ever and will instantly snatch it up, making it difficult to find. The product will eventually release to everyone, so it’s best to be patient until vaccines roll out and businesses go back to normal.