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What to expect for 2021 holiday shopping

Posted by Garick Giroir on November 15, 2021

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The 2021 holiday season may be one full of supply shortages, shipping delays and higher price tags.

Here’s a look at what you might expect to see this holiday shopping season.

Supply shortages

If you were one of the unfortunate few who's Halloween costume didn't arrive on time, you may have already noticed the drop in available products. From household goods to the season’s hottest toys, suppliers are struggling to stay ahead of shoppers’ demands while still catching up on the manufacturing lag they experienced during the lockdown. Suppliers are also dealing with a labor shortage, making it even more challenging to meet their own manufacturing quotas. Many manufacturers rely on other suppliers for the materials they need for fulfilling their product demands — shipping delays and worldwide supply chain bottlenecks are slowing down their production processes even further.

Speaking of which...

Shipping delays 

Even when manufacturers manage to keep the supply of their products ahead of the demand, there can be significant delays when the goods land in the U.S. In mid-September, a record 70 cargo ships were waiting to dock in the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, two ports which handle approximately 40% of the country’s imported goods. The logjam is a direct result of a scarcity in available storage containers, as well as uneven deliveries of shipped goods as suppliers race to catch up with demand. The backup has died down a bit, but is still present — and will likely continue to be a kink in the delivery chain deep into 2022.

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Understaffed shops

Don’t expect the royal treatment when you hit the shops this holiday season. Salespeople are likely to be even more overworked and stressed than they usually are during this time of year, as employers face massive staff shortages and are forced to place extra responsibilities on their workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 10.4 million job openings in the U.S. right now — a number that has more than doubled since last year. Retailers are struggling to provide their standard level of service with fewer hands on deck, and the frazzled salespeople you encounter may very likely be doing the jobs of several workers.

Fewer deals and higher prices 

Don’t count on finding super-hot deals this season while shopping to complete your gift list. In fact, the prices you’ll find on toys, clothing, electronics and other items will likely be higher than usual, thanks to factors like inflation, the rising cost of fuel and supply that falls well below demand. With shoppers eager to get their hands on the few goods that are available, retailers have less of an incentive to offer promotions and steep discounts on any gift items. This isn’t the year to plan on shopping the sales to help you stay within budget.

The best strategy for 2021 holiday shopping is to...


Shop early 

There’s not much you can do to fix the supply shortages and delays in shipping. But what you can do, is shop early to avoid facing bare shelves and delivery dates that are weeks past Christmas. Suppliers and retailers are urging consumers to get started on their holiday shopping before Black Friday this year to get the best selection at the best prices. If you’re a last-minute holiday shopper, this may be the year to rethink your approach.

While shopping won't be nearly as bountiful in 2021, planning ahead and starting early can help you enjoy this season’s gift shopping and stick to your budget.

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