The holidays are coming and it’s time to hit the shops! Retailers and consumers around the nation are anticipating a holiday season that’s a lot closer to pre-pandemic days than last year’s festivities. Unfortunately, though, suppliers are cautioning consumers to expect supply shortages, shipping delays, and higher price tags than ever.
With that in mind, here’s a look at what you might expect to see this holiday shopping season.
You may have already noticed the dearth of available products, from household goods to the season’s hottest toys, when shopping for the holidays and everyday goods. Suppliers are struggling to stay ahead of shoppers’ demands while still catching up on the manufacturing lag they experienced during the lockdown. Suppliers are also dealing with a labor shortage, which makes it challenging to meet their own manufacturing quotas. Finally, many manufacturers rely on other suppliers for the materials they need for fulfilling their product demands — shipping delays (described in more detail in a moment) and worldwide supply chain bottlenecks are slowing down their production processes even further.
Even when manufacturers manage to keep the supply of their products ahead of the demand, there can be significant delays when the goods land in the U.S. To illustrate, in mid-September, a record 70 cargo ships were waiting to dock in the LA and Long Beach ports, two ports that handle approximately 40% of the country’s imported goods. The logjam is a direct result of scarcity in available storage containers, as well as uneven deliveries of shipped goods as suppliers race to catch up with demand. The backup has since decreased in intensity but is still present, and will likely continue to be a kink in the delivery chain deep into 2022.
Don’t expect the royal treatment when you hit the shops this holiday season. Salespeople are likely to be even more overworked and stressed than they usually are during this time of year, as employers face massive staff shortages and are forced to place extra responsibilities on their workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent report, there are 10.4 million job openings in the U.S. right now, a number that has more than doubled since last year. Retailers are struggling to provide their standard level of service with fewer hands on deck, and the harried salespeople you encounter may very likely be doing the jobs of several workers.
Fewer deals and higher prices
Don’t count on finding super-hot deals this season while shopping to complete your gift list. In fact, the prices you’ll find on toys, clothing, electronics, and other items will likely be higher than usual, thanks to factors like inflation, the rising cost of fuel, and supply that falls well below demand. With shoppers eager to get their hands on the few goods that are available, retailers also have less of an incentive to offer promotions and steep discounts on any gift items. This isn’t the year to plan on shopping the sales to help you stay within budget.
As a consumer, there’s not much you can do to fix the supply shortages and delays in shipping. What you can do, though, is shop early to avoid facing bare shelves and a delivery date that’s weeks past the holidays. In fact, suppliers and retailers are urging consumers to get started on their holiday shopping before Halloween this year to get the best selection at the best prices. If you’re the kind of shopper who doesn’t think about gift shopping until two weeks before the holidays, this may be the year to rethink your approach.
A scarcity in supply, delivery backups, staff shortages, and high prices will likely make holiday shopping more challenging this year. However, by planning ahead and starting early, you can enjoy this season’s gift shopping and still stick to your budget.