Logistics issues, including ongoing manufacturing and supply chain disruptions, can cause the most popular toys and most popular gifts to sell out quickly or end up on waiting lists. And they might not be available at all in the typical Thanksgiving Christmas shopping window this year.
“It’s a complex situation,” notes Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com, “but essentially the pandemic has created a domino effect of delays and shortages around the world, with bottlenecks in ports and personnel problems in factories. I feel like we’re really going to feel it when the holiday shopping season hits its peak. For this reason, I suggest that consumers start soon.
The main points of entry for container ships carrying retail cargo include southern California and the ports of New York and New Jersey. The Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, the largest in the United States, faced a backlog of dozens of cargo ships – up to 73 a day recently – floating offshore awaiting their turn to be unloaded. It’s a similar scene on the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island.
What is the hold-up? A shortage of workers to unload the containers, as well as trucks and drivers to transport them are among the problems.
“The buying force of the American consumer is so strong and epic that we cannot absorb all of this cargo in the national supply chain,” Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, told KCLA-TV in Los Angeles.
And this is costly to suppliers and retailers, with those costs being passed on to buyers in terms of higher prices – or in the case of Costco, by again limiting the number of certain items that buyers can buy (toilet paper, paper towels and bottled water), as at the start of the pandemic.
The bottleneck in ports is also forcing some retailers to engage in shipping. Home Depot rents its own cargo ship to bring goods to other US ports and stores. “We have a ship that will be uniquely ours. It’s just going to come and go with 100% dedicated to Home Depot, ”Home Depot President and COO Ted Decker told CNBC. Costco has also entered the shipping game, chartering three container ships to operate between Asia and ports in the United States and Canada.
But it’s not just the ports in the United States, on the receiving side, the importers, that are experiencing delays. Port closures in Asia affect this end of the supply chain, ers, says Jonathan Gold. vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.
This creates ongoing challenges as retailers strive to supply enough inventory to meet demand.
“Remember that brands can import parts from various manufacturers in order to build their final product and if one is delayed or backed up, it sends a wave of disruption to production and the supply chain,” explains Andrea Woroch, Retail Economics Expert. “This is what we see here. We’ll also see huge delays in shipping bulky items, including big-screen TVs (a hot buy for Black Friday!) As well as furniture, appliances, and cars. A lower supply also leads to higher prices, says Woroch, and some toy experts have estimated that toy prices will increase by 5-10%.
That’s why shopping earlier than usual this holiday shopping season can be the smartest game.
Woroch says if your recipient is determined on something specific that you don’t hesitate to indulge yourself. Hot toys including LOL dolls, Barbie Dreamhouse, “Star Wars” toys, LEGO and Nintendo Switch sets will sell out quickly and retailers will be struggling to keep them on the shelves. The same is true with specific clothing or footwear, including UGG boots or electronic devices like a tablet or e-reader.
Bodge agrees to shop early, but not for everything.
“I would focus on items that you have no flexibility with, like a specific hot toy, a particular model of gadget, or even a trendy pair of shoes on TikTok,” Bodge explains. “You should start looking for these items as soon as possible and wait for more general items, like candles, blankets or holiday-themed gifts, which will be available and likely on sale as the holidays approach.”