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The winter holiday season is right around the corner, and that means gift shopping is already upon us. In past years, consumers could delay their shopping as late as a few days before Christmas or New Year. However, experts say this year is looking to be a little different.  

According to several port officials, Americans should kick off the holiday gift buying season early this year. “Shop early, because these delays and bottlenecks are going to continue to the end of the year,” Mario Cordero, executive director of Long Beach Port, tells Bloomberg. Retailers are using this as an opportunity to get a leg up on sales, offering shoppers early discounts that go through Black Friday to New Year’s.  

RetailMeNot trend expert Kristin McGrath tells NextAdvisor, “With the pandemic disrupting virtually every part of the manufacturing process and supply chain, as well as creating worker shortages, retailers will be strapped this year when it comes to restocking and sending out orders.” 

So here’s why you should get ahead of the crowds and start your shopping early this season … 

Supply Chains Issues Aren’t Going Anywhere 

 Summer only just ended, but some Americans already have the holiday shopping season on their minds. According to one survey from CreditCards, about 27 percent of shoppers have already purchased their holiday items — and that statistic was taken before the end of September.  

 Of course, this could be an attribute of shoppers who are just incredibly organized. But it’s more likely due to the recent supply chain issues, which many experts warned consumers about earlier this summer.  

With the ongoing shipping backups, limited container vessel availability, export delays, and bottlenecks at ports all over the world, consumers and retailers are facing an unprecedented level of disruption. China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta Variant surge have resulted devastating global impacts on companies and their supply chains.  

And while large retailers are using their financial recourses to create solutions of their own, small businesses are scrambling to keep up with buyers who are starting their holiday shopping early. 

 After dealing with similar issues last holiday season, many retailers have planned ahead this year. Still, challenges regarding inventory are plaguing the vast majority of businesses. However, experts say that as we get closer to the holidays, these issues of disruption are only expected to escalate, and shoppers should hone in on holiday shopping now.  

 Consumers Shift Their Focus to Online Shopping 

 According to the same CreditCard survey, 62 percent of people surveyed said they planned to make their holiday gift purchases online. When asked why, 70 percent of people simply said convenience, 46 percent said there are better deals and prices online, while 45 percent cited a fear of COVID-19 threatening their holiday plans.  

Plus, with the recent Delta Variant surge, shoppers are uncertain about which stores will even be open during the holidays, and the supply chain crisis is threatening every parents’ plan of buying that must-have toy. Besides, if there’s one thing the pandemic lockdown last year taught us, it’s that E-Commerce is an overwhelmingly dominant force in retail.  

 “The e-commerce ‘boom’ will continue until it’s no longer considered a boom and, rather, just the way that modern consumers shop,” says a 2020 article on Forbes, and just a year later, consumers already see that coming to fruition.  

However, even online retailers are expecting shipping delays during the holiday shopping season, and many of those companies are sending out emails warning shoppers to get ahead. 

Mailing services like FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service have already expressed concerns about the holiday shopping season. While FedEx is currently dealing with staffing shortages, the USPS is enacting a cost-cutting measure of slowing down mail and raising prices of priority mail and Parcel Select Ground delivery services.  

Since both mailing services are expecting to experience some issues during the holidays, they’ve decided to implement many of these procedures from October through to the end of December.  

How to Approach This Year’s Holiday Shopping  

With all this in mind, shopping for the holiday season might seem like an impossible task. But as long as you get ahead of the crowds and start your shopping now, you’ll likely avoid any of these issues.  

As we’ve learned these past two years during the pandemic, it’s best to be prepared for the worst. So when you’re placing your holiday gift orders, keep in mind that a slight shipping delay is inevitable. Most businesses will let you know what you can expect in your package, even including the delay.  

“You’re definitely seeing a push earlier this year … [brands] encouraging their consumers to start early, especially if there are specific things they have their eye on,” Jill Renslow, executive vice president of business development and marketing at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, tells Forbes. 

 As far as extra shipping costs go, try to work those into your budget. That way, you can be prepared for any surprise shipping fees. It also might help to use more than one shopping method. Instead of doing solely online or in-store shopping, consider doing both. 

Sticking to just online shopping could become expensive with shipping costs, and shopping only in-store might become difficult with inventory challenges. Mixing it up can help you check everything off your list, especially when you take advantage of popular services like curbside or in-store pickup.  

It Pays to Start Early … 

 Whether you plan to shop in-store or online, be prepared to be patient. The nation’s supply chains crisis doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, and retailers are struggling to get merchandise off the container ships and stocked onto store shelves in time for the holidays. 

So do yourself a favor and get ahead of the holiday shopping rush. This will give you the best chance of avoiding any issues with shipping delays or stock shortages. Plus, with so many businesses starting holiday sales early, it’s time you start checking off your gift wish list now. 

 

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