Well, I have some insight into this situation, but the last time I even vaguely referred to it in a post on a fansite(wasn't this one, mind you) the post was immediately edited for having a "political opinion". But since it isn't a "political" opinion, but rather a result of economic cause and effect as inevitable and mechanistic as "rising gas prices" or "supply and demand", both of which are already mentioned in this thread, I will try to post it here to add to the discussion.
But before I drop my two cents, let me acknowledge several above mentioned factors as being contributors to this scenario.
1. Rising gas prices. Yep, that's affecting shipping and therefore price rates.
2. Supply vs Demand. I am sure this affects the price of the toys at least a little. At places like TRU for instance. But not nationally across the whole board. It will hit TRU(who just raised the price of MPTC 5 bucks, just like they did Rodimus after his initial shipment sold out) and the now Ebay rific online shops.
In my area the prices have increased on deluxes more in the last 8 months than they did in all of 2011. In fact, the percentage of increase in 2011 is more than the total increase between 2008-2010. It is also happening with other commodities, like cheap store brand foods and pet foods. In my own marketing dept I witnessed a 40 pound bag of dog food which had been 18.99 for longer than anyone can remember go to being a 35 pound bag for 25.00 OVERNIGHT. In another sector we saw organic natural cereals reduce the size of their boxes by 50 percent while the price staid the same.
These examples are there to illustrate that this phenomenon is by no means whatsoever isolated to toys. It's happening everywhere, in everything, because of the process of monetary devaluation known as "Quantitative Easing". What QE actually is, is INFLATION. More money is printed than there is any value to back and the value of the dollar decreases. So the cost of that toy hasn't truly risen. The value of your money has been deliberately decreased and so for the dollar, it takes more greenbacks to afford it. And unlike food distribution, it takes a lot longer for something like a toyline to roll with the economic punches. The average size of the next year's worth of deluxes has already been set in stone, for instance, so it will be the next line before they shrink enough that 15 American dollars will buy one again.
This process was done in two waves following the 2008 crash to prop up the markets and keep stability, but the newest round is being called "an unlimited devaluation" by the world's leading trends forecasters. In other words, we are beginning to see the first signs of Hyperinflation. You may want to look into what happens when an economy reaches that by the way.
The next round of commodities scheduled to appear to increase in price mostly fall into the food category. In fact, all the information I've seen forecasts a tripling of "food prices" in January, when the inflation rate will meet the drought of this past summer.
As a Market Trends Watcher, I have taken note that this year saw the introduction of a beefed up Cyberverse line and heavily marketed tiny toys like the botshots and the Kreo Microchangers. In my opinion, this is where American Tfs distribution is going. Hasbro is looking for something very small to match the value of our purchasing power to market in the future, if anything at all, and these are examples of testing the waters. Especially the CV line.