This time last year, COVID-19 was in full swing, and people all around the world were still adjusting to the idea of no gift exchanges, holiday dinner parties, or any Christmas celebrations due to the lockdowns. Now, the holiday season faces a different kind of challenge …
As we transition to our second pandemic winter, bottlenecks in the transportation system and supply chain woes could result in a whirlwind of disruptions and delays, which could additionally cut into inventory.
Corporate leaders have released dozens of reports to help reassure producers and customers that the pandemic-related supply chain crises won’t affect their holiday shopping plans. However, logistics experts say otherwise.
According to some experts, world trade is not expected to return to normal until late 2022 or early 2023. With no end in sight to these delays halting factories, ports, and warehouses around the world, retailers and consumers alike are rushing to complete their holiday shopping lists.
Here’s how you can expect the global supply chain crisis to affect your Christmas shopping:
Toy Shortage Stirs Worry Among Parents
If you thought holiday shopping in 2020 was hard, holiday shopping this Christmas season may prove to be even more challenging — especially for parents.
According to a KPMG survey earlier this September, there’s expected to be a major shortage of toys and other inventory this holiday season. Another study found that 82 percent of 114 surveyed retail executives said they were concerned about a potential shortage of toys due to the ongoing supply chain disruptions.
Additionally, retailers are expecting a higher demand for toys this year than compared to last year. “The demand is going to be there. What is not going to be there is the product to fill the demand,” says Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment.
To anticipate this high demand, many stores are offering several methods of fulfillment to buyers, such as buy online, pick-up in-store or curbside pickup, buy in-store and ship to your home, or buy online and ship from the store to your home.
Parents can also do their part to make sure they can purchase that must-have toy for their child.
“For shoppers, this means think about shopping early for the most important items on your holiday list (and) make sure you are aware of promotions from your favorite retailer,” comments Scott Rankin, KPMG’s national advisory and strategy leader for consumer and retail.
“Where there may be a shortage at your local retailer, you have the option to shop online.”
Oh, Christmas Tree — or No Christmas Tree?
Decking the halls might also be a challenge this year. According to several reports, a Christmas tree shortage for both real and artificial trees is leaving many family homes with a bare living room and nothing to decorate.
One Christmas tree farmer from Kentucky simply says, “We can’t grow trees fast enough on our farms.” The Canadian Christmas Trees Association is also facing some issues with supplying enough trees to consumers. “I believe we are going to have similar issues due to demand as we had last year,” says executive director Shirley Brennan, referencing how last year’s record demand made it hard for many shoppers to get their hands on a natural tree.
Of course, you can always opt for a fake one, but artificial trees are just as hard to find. The US supply of artificial Christmas trees is expected to drop 20 percent to 25 percent due to delays from China. Large retailers like Walmart and Hobby Lobby are offering artificial trees for sale, but consumers who planned ahead for the supply chain crisis are already buying them now.
According to the American Christmas Tree Association, “The supply of real Christmas trees will be impacted by the extreme weather conditions — fires, drought, heat — that hammered growers this season. Artificial tree supplies are being impacted by the serious supply chain issues that are plaguing just about every product that is imported into the U.S.”
So whether you want a real tree or an artificial tree, farmers and manufacturers are urging shoppers to buy them now, while the good ones are still in stock.
Even Ugly Christmas Sweaters Aren’t Safe …
For years, the donning of ugly Christmas sweaters has been a tradition among hundreds of thousands of families during the holiday season. However, even these ostentatious adornments face a shortage amidst the worldwide shipping crisis.
Fred Hajjar, president of commerce for UglyChristmasSweater.com, predicted a shortage earlier this fall. Last Christmas, Hajjar’s company experienced overwhelming success in the sale of ugly sweaters and pajamas as people stayed home during Christmas. This year, he expects sales to be just as fruitful, but he also predicts some difficulty in supply and shipping.
Hajjar tells USA Today he is currently facing high transportation costs and “extraordinary delays,” with over 30,000 holidays Gera stuck in a Long Beach port. However, Hajjar remains hopeful that customers will still receive their garish garments in time for the holidays — just as long as they plan ahead.
Start Checking Off Your Gift List Now
The issues plaguing the supply chain threaten not just Hajjar’s business, but also thousands of other small businesses who are working overtime this holiday season.
While large retailers have the financial recourses to charter their own container ships, smaller company’s must rely on their own manpower to make sure consumers get their gifts in time for Christmas — whether it’s sweaters, toys, or even trees.
Fortunately, experts warned us of these potential shortages as early as this summer, and the majority of retailers and consumers have taken the necessary steps to prepare for the holiday shopping rush.