Holiday shopping in 2021: buy early to avoid supply chain issues, experts say
Lamenting the earlier and earlier arrival of vacation accessories in favorite stores has become an annual growl for many American shoppers.
But there may be plenty of reasons to drop the attitude and jump straight into the fray this year, as lingering global supply chain issues, combined with critical shortages of domestic labor, could lead to a perfect storm of missing 2021 holiday wishlist items.
A survey conducted in the first week of October by data analytics firm Morning Consult found that around 50% of U.S. shoppers started their 2021 holiday shopping early, but many are already struggling to find products intended for gift wrapping.
About 51% of first-time buyers say stores no longer have at least one item they were looking for, while 54% say a hoped-for product was out of stock online and 49% will have to wait for a backorder or back order. a delayed delivery during an advance purchase. .
Morning Consult researchers say supply chain bottlenecks are driving product shortages that “will get worse before they get better,” and even long before traditional holiday shopping kicks off after. Thanksgiving, things are heating up.
“Incentives for retailers to shop early are working, causing consumers to start shopping for gifts earlier this year,” the survey report said. “But many of these early adopters are already having significant supply chain issues.
“As more consumers start their holiday shopping and more stores launch early deals for Black Friday, expect extraordinarily intense pressure to compete on both price and availability. some products.”
Salt Lake King’s English independent bookseller is one of those companies urging customers to start shopping early to make sure they have the best way to tick the boxes on their holiday gift lists.
King’s English co-owner Calvin Crosby said supply chain transportation issues combined with understaffed manufacturing and distribution operations amid domestic labor shortages amplify challenges for retailers in all sectors. For booksellers, he said, publishers and distributors have signaled that available inventory would likely not be replenished until after the holidays, forcing owners to stock up early or risk ending up with shelves. empty during high volume vacations. shopping season.
“October is the new December,” Crosby said. “We have placed very large orders. So much so that it created some interesting storage challenges for our little store. But, the abundance of inventory is necessary knowing that our options will decrease later in the season.
Along with the front-load as-a-necessity strategy, Crosby said his store has also launched a complementary awareness campaign to engage shoppers while selections are at their best.
As individual retailers recalculate to manage product availability issues ahead of what is, for many, the most critical period of sales activity for the entire year, elected officials and business groups scramble to find a solution.
Last week, President Joe Biden announced changes to extend the hours of operation of critical west coast seaports and encourage national retail chains to increase their own nighttime operations to help resolve issues. complex supply chain issues. These issues first emerged amid early COVID-19 restrictions, but have only since been exacerbated by efforts to catch up to manufacturing and shipping schedules that have been overdue for more than a year.
Utah lawmakers at the federal and state levels are also grappling with what can be done, and business groups like the Salt Lake Chamber and the World Trade Center Utah have formed task forces to find ways to combine their efforts to help Utah businesses, whether merchandise exporters or importers, navigate the supply chain quagmire.
While the problems facing retailers and their buyers are innumerable, many economists are predicting that 2021 holiday sales volumes will be robust, and earlier-than-usual buying will be one of the driving forces behind a season. coming that could set records.
A new report from Wells Fargo cited a key theme for vacation sales in 2021 – put simply, being ahead.
“This is as true for buyers and retailers as it is for producers and shippers, where Santa’s helpers around the world have gone out of their way to replenish depleted stocks despite the constraints of the ongoing supply chain. and COVID outbreaks that kept workers out. factories sometimes, ”Wells Fargo analysts wrote. “Despite a backdrop of worsening supply chain issues, still tight labor markets and COVID-related uncertainty, this could be another record year for retailers in terms of holiday sales. “
The analysis also predicts that holiday season sales will increase 10 to 13 percent from a year ago, which saw sales approach $ 790 billion between November and December.
The report also notes that the item at the top of the collective wish list of American consumers is a return to normal.
“What everyone really wants this year – more than anything that can be put under a tree – is the end of this miserable pandemic,” the report read. “The number one thing on the people’s list this year is a return to normalcy.
“Instead, the timing of the Delta variant and the downward pressure it has placed on consumer confidence comes at an inopportune time; although it is not without some compensating factors. To the extent that COVID restrictions dampen service sector activity, it could free up money for spending on goods, which is critical for holiday sales. “
Salt Lake resident Talitha Day said she also looked forward to a post-pandemic world and was in King’s English Tuesday afternoon picking up holiday gifts for her children and grandchildren.
Day said she used to start holiday shopping in late November, but news of ongoing supply chain issues and the possible scarcity of some items prompted her to start early this year.
“My plan this year is to absolutely shop early,” Day said. “I heard about the backlog in store orders and made King’s English my first stop.”
Day said she encountered higher prices and limited selection at some of her other holiday shopping stops, but was “shocked and excited” to see how much inventory her favorite bookstore had on display.
“I was nervous before entering but surprised at the variety,” Day said. “They ordered early and were ready. Other stores I’ve been to, not so many.