Prepare for the holiday season amid the global supply chain shortage

Prepare for the holiday season amid the global supply chain shortage
Photo by Julia Volk on

Given the commercialized nature of the holiday season, many have begun to wonder how gift-giving will unfold amid unprecedented goods shortages. Some have the foresight to buy holiday gifts a couple of months ahead of time. Most consumers will scour stores online and in-person for last-minute gifts only to find that Lululemon leggings on their daughter’s Christmas list are out of stock due to the global supply chain shortage.

Rumblings of consumer panic began when we found our local shelves empty of essential goods like toilet paper. Target’s empty aisles and shelves look almost apocalyptic, creating unease in shoppers. In a society ruled by and so used to instant gratification, product shortages prove a rude awakening. So, read on for tips on preparing for this holiday season despite the supply chain shortage, which will inevitably affect your shopping experience.

Why the shortages?

REUTERS/Gavino Garay

The recent supply chain shortage stems from COVID-19 infections, floods, container shortages and power cuts. But it arguably began with a surplus of orders. Wealthier nations overwhelmed the shipping industry during quarantine, spending their extra income (previously used on expenses like commuting, traveling and dining out) on things like home office upgrades and exercise equipment.

When the world needed a vast amount of protective gear to combat COVID-19, China shipped those products to places that rarely send products back to China, which meant that empty shipping containers began to accumulate. The rampant demand combined with the build up of unused containers exhausted the shipping industry, and, given factors like port closures and the Suez Canal crisis, it couldn’t claw its way out of the backlog.

But it isn’t just a matter of shipping traffic and delays. Factories in need of various components made elsewhere couldn’t finish products due to those delays, and thus the process of production and not just exportation has gone awry. Economists have varying opinions on whether this global supply chain disruption is a temporary hiccup or an insidious force that could snatch our hopes for a return to normalcy out of sight.

How will this affect me?

In a word, price. Inflated energy prices lead to higher manufacturing costs, which means consumers will have to pay more for goods as commonplace as food and as luxury as new technology or automobiles. Additionally, grocery stores may put purchase limits on certain products, like canned goods or bottled water.

Most households will have to learn to live with less, but those living in poverty struggle with issues like food insecurity. The rising prices of food, especially perishables, curtails access to nutrition, increasing health-related risks during a pandemic.

According to a Bank of America survey, consumers are taking note of supply chain shortages and planning ahead. Bank of America data found that 49% of people are starting their holiday shopping earlier this year because of supply chain/inventory issues. As of early October, 31% of the respondents had already started purchasing gifts, while 15% had begun purchasing decorations.

This year, it’s all about making a budget for most people. Bank of America’s survey found that 65% of people have started preparing for the winter holidays in some way. In total, 21% are updating their budgets and 32% are saving for expenses to accommodate the holiday spending season.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday will still be key shopping dates. 64% of respondents plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping on Cyber Monday, Black Friday or earlier. And, nearly a quarter (23%) plan to do the majority of shopping on Black Friday alone.

Reevaluating our priorities

“Within the marketing world, rumor has it that 11-12% of people are not going to be buying any holiday gifts this year due to the shortage issue,” says digital marketing assistant at Supplemental Warehouse Lexi Cederholm. “This is how many will be coping/adjusting with this year’s shortage; many people have just chosen to not participate in gift buying at all. I think that this is a smart idea. I would assume that some would do their gift buying after the holiday season is over.”

Instead of gift-giving, plan a special outing with your family. Enjoy a day of winter sports or learn a new skill together. Instead of moaning about the absence of a traditional Christmas dinner, be creative in your choice of recipes. When out shopping, only take what you really need. Help combat food insecurity by volunteering with local shelters and food banks.

If you simply cannot imagine the holidays without gift-giving, you may have to wait until after the holiday season or compromise on your Christmas list. Be aware that heavily-impacted products include technology (specifically anything that needs computer chips to function), athletic clothes and footwear, art supplies (such as paints due to chemical shortages) and more.

Or, consider a DIY gift for your loved ones instead. Nothing is more thoughtful than gifting something you’ve put your time and effort into making yourself. You can create new memories during the holiday season and give gifts of sentimental value instead with just a bit of creativity.

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