How the supply chain crisis could change your holidays for the better

How the supply chain crisis could change your holidays for the better
Photo by Jonathan Borba on

The supply chain refers to the people, roles and activities involved in producing goods and services and their supply and distribution across the entire world. Because of the pandemic, though, getting things both made and shipped has become really difficult.

Jens Camperl, founder and chief executive officer of Sourcengine, explained to TMS just how these shortages might affect our holidays.

“Pandemic-related supply chain issues have yet to be resolved and will greatly impact the holiday season,” says Camperl. “Shipping costs are in some cases 10 times more expensive than they were previously, with raw components and materials especially difficult to source. Some industries, like the auto and electronics industries, have been significantly impacted and forced to cut down production. Although not as sophisticated as other electronics, the global shortage is even affecting the production of routine home appliances like laundry machines, refrigerators and air conditioners.

“Although this shortage is extreme, the supply chain wasn’t perfect before the pandemic,” Camperl continues. “For example, United States tariffs led to China hoarding components because there were restrictions on what [it] could buy. But then the pandemic further complicated matters by creating irregular consumer supply and demand patterns, coupled with unreliable semiconductor production and shipping from overseas.

“In addition to those challenges, semiconductor manufacturing moved overseas over the last 20 years so that they could be produced more cheaply. Having semiconductor manufacturing so concentrated in one part of the world created a massive void when COVID-19 shut the world down. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), for example, blew through their parts inventories earlier in the year to meet demand for consumer electronics.

“Everything is so interwoven in our global economy that other obstacles like labor shortages, COVID-19 outbreaks and fuel price increases can cause ripple effects across the global supply chain. These challenges aren’t going away, and leaders are already working to remove bottlenecks that are straining the supply chain, so that today’s level of disruption doesn’t continue throughout the entire coming year.”

With the holiday season on top of us, the supply chain crisis could adversely affect our beloved gift-giving traditions. So many of us look forward to Christmas, Hanukkah and other winter holidays that allow us to show our love and appreciation for those we are closest to.

Saving up and looking for the perfect gift to wrap in silver paper and demonstrate how well we know our friends and family is genuinely fun. Seeing the look on your Secret Santa’s face as they unwrap what you’ve picked just for them brings warmth into such a cold time of year. And, if you like to donate books, toys or other holiday goods to local charities, this may be when you’re feeling extra charitable.

So, with a disrupted supply chain, it might be difficult to actually get our hands on the kinds of presents we search for year after year. At the very least, it could take longer for your online purchases to show up at your doorstep. Or the stores at the mall might seem a bit vacant.

But, while you’re browsing through your favorite shopping website this year, don’t be surprised if half of the gifts you planned on purchasing aren’t in stock. We know that can put a damper on your holiday gift-giving plans. However, you could also see it as a blessing in disguise.

Changing our holiday mindset

Every kid has been told that, although gifts might be a fun reason to look forward to the holidays, it isn’t “the reason for the season.” We’re all familiar with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” We know that greed for material objects isn’t a good thing.

However, with how synonymous the holiday season has become with hyper-consumerism, it can be challenging to see past our materialism. In 2020, the average American spent almost US$1,000 on gifts for the holiday season.

With the supply chain crisis, though, we may be forced to refocus on how we see this time of the year. We could end up prioritizing other aspects of the holidays, like spending time with loved ones, doing charitable activities and enjoying fun winter activities like sledding, skiing, baking and watching movies.

Furthermore, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, Americans throw away 25% more trash than they do during the rest of the year. Much of this waste can be attributed to gift wrappings and packaging, as well as food waste.

Without buying as many material gifts as we usually do, we can save wrapping materials and won’t have as much excess packaging to deal with.

Putting more thought and effort into gifts

This year, we may find ourselves spending more time and effort on what we come up with this year for gift ideas instead. Being unable to rely on skedaddling to the mall the week before Christmas may result in more creative and thoughtful gifts.

Additionally, although we can’t necessarily depend upon the supply chain like we usually do, we can still depend on ourselves. Maybe this year, you can try your hand at making a few of the gifts that you intend to give. For instance, if you have artistic talent in embroidery, painting, cooking or writing, creating some of the presents you gift is priceless to those receiving them.

Switching to non-material presents

As we get older, our desire for objects – stuff – that we don’t really need can start to wane. The gifts we receive can sometimes just add to the clutter in our homes, no matter how well-meaning the gift-giver intended to be. When you also factor in the waste this creates, it almost doesn’t seem worth it.

Now that we’re facing global supply shortages, we can pivot our definition of a gift from an object to an experience. For one thing, an experience can never be thrown away, and it will become a cherished memory for your gift-ee.

When we use the word “experience,” that can mean a few different things. Consider what kinds of activities your loved one enjoys. We’ve got a few ideas to help you brainstorm:

  • Concert tickets
  • Theater tickets
  • Amusement park passes
  • Gift certificate for a spa day, manicure/pedicure or other self-care experience
  • Cooking class gift certificate (or a bartending/cocktail-making class)
  • Art class gift certificate (painting, glassblowing, pottery painting)
  • Gym membership
  • Gift certificate to a local restaurant or cafe
  • Membership to an audiobook site like Audible or Scribd
  • Meal kit services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh

Another way you can show your appreciation without purchasing an object would be to donate the amount you have budgeted for that person to a charity or cause they support in their name. Using sites like Charity Watch and Charity Navigator, you can ensure that your donation is used well. This kind of gift is especially great for someone harder to shop for, someone who doesn’t “want anything” (looking at you, dads) or for the type of person who seems to have everything already. What better way to celebrate the giving season than by giving to a good cause in their honor?

For some people, you may still want to go shopping. Gift giving is some people’s love language, and it’s natural to want to show our affection with presents. Still, the supply chain crisis doesn’t have to spell disaster for your holiday celebrations.

Instead, it could push you to reconsider how you’ve given gifts in the past and be more conscious of how you give them in the future. Who knows? Redefining your gifting parameters could just be a good thing.

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