As consumers celebrate this holiday season, manufacturers are dealing with a supply-demand issue. The COVID-19 pandemic caused an undeniable back-up across numerous industries, leading to empty shelves and backups as consumers try to order certain things online. For consumers, it's important to shop early and be flexible since you're more likely to find it hard to get specific items.
The Cause of the Backup
The supply chain issues everyone's experiencing today had several causes. First, there was the pandemic and the shutdowns that forced factories to fall behind on production. Some products are unavailable due to a shortage of materials, as seen in the case of the semiconductor shortage, as well as an industry-wide effort to keep up with the rapidly opening economy.
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Another issue impacting the supply chain relates to shipping. Many products arrive at the U.S. from Asia, Europe and other overseas countries via cargo ships. The large number of cargo ships rushing to the States has created cargo ship bottlenecks that are slowing down imports.
There's also the issue of packaging items up to ship in the first place. A shortage of global shipping containers has caused a logistics issue. COVID restrictions mean empty containers can't easily be shipped between countries, forcing manufacturers to wait.
Parents and Gift-Giving
The product shortages are especially tough for parents, who struggle to find the exact toy a child needs. Kids don't always understand concepts like supply chain issues, especially if Santa is supposed to have all their gifts manufactured by elves at the North Pole.
Toy manufacturers have warned that popular products like Barbies and Legos might be in short supply this holiday season. It's also important to note that price hikes are expected on the toys you can find, so you might need to add a little more to your budget.
Panic Buying and Christmas Shortages
The problem with supply chain shortages is that the news about them only makes things worse. Hearing about manufacturing delays prompts many consumers to shop early, panic buying those items that are expected to be both popular and in short supply.
The biggest danger, of course, is to those items that make those "top toys" list every year. Gifts like ThinkFun's Gravity Maze and the L.O.L Surprise! OMG Sports Cheer Diva Fashion Doll are in demand, and the manufacturer of the latter product is already reporting supply chain issues. If you want the hottest toys, you'll need to start looking early or search for alternatives.
Working Around the Supply Shortage
If you look up expert advice on 2021 holiday shopping, you'll see the advice to start early over and over. Even if something is in abundant supply today, freight and distribution issues can happen overnight. But there are some things you simply can't buy early, especially if you have children who revise their wish list constantly in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day.
Another popular piece of advice this year is to avoid waiting for sales. Many consumers hold off until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to start shopping, and that could be a bad idea in 2021. The key is to buy what you need now rather than wait for a sale. If you see an item go on sale later, you could always buy it and exchange the one you already purchased.
As for those Black Friday deals, this also likely won't be the year to take advantage of year-end sales on appliances and electronics. Supply shortages have hit these products hard, with consumers finding they have to wait months for a new appliance to arrive. That means the deal you see in stores might be even higher than what you'll pay if you wait until the supply chain issues improve.
Consider also: How Buying a Gift Affects the Person Buying
This Christmas is likely to be a challenging one when it comes to gift-giving. But it also could be a good year to reflect on the many other gifts the holiday season brings, including spending time with family. A little flexibility in the gifts on wish lists could make shopping easier for everyone this year.
- U.S. Department of Commerce: Commerce Department, Biden Administration Take Action on Semiconductor Chip Shortage
- The Maritime Executive: Congestion, Delays and Supply Chain Challenges Will Continue Into 2022
- Consumer Reports: With Low Inventories Projected Through the End of the Year, Here’s How to Shop for a Large Appliance Now
- Today.com: 40 Hottest Toys for the Holidays 2021: Top Toys and Gifts
- CNBC: Here’s What Could Mess up Your Holiday Shopping This Year — And Why You Should Start Early