The supply chain issues that have hampered retailers and clogged U.S. ports this year are expected to continue through 2022 as the effects of the COVID-19 delta variant persist. This means shoppers face potential delays in restocking retailers from video games to clothing, especially during the upcoming holiday season.
“I say to people half-jokingly, ‘Order your Christmas presents now, because if not on Christmas day there might just be a picture of something that won’t happen until February or March.” Scott Price, the international president of shipping giant UPS, told AFP’s news agency.
Some consumers are already buying Christmas gifts. More than one in four holiday shoppers plan to start by the end of this month, while more than half plan to start before Halloween, according to a new CreditCards.com poll.
According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of holiday shoppers plan to make these purchases online. That’s less than last year, but more than in a pre-pandemic, a signal of strong consumer demand, Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com told CBS MoneyWatch.
A semiconductor shortage pissed off industries from the auto to consumer electronics earlier this year. Shortages of raw materials, such as wood, have slowed down the repair and construction industries. But less publicized industries – like clothing and toys – may not be able to stock up on store shelves quickly enough during what is expected to be a robust and long-standing holiday season, Rossman said.
“It’s a good idea to start early,” Rossman told CBS MoneyWatch. “And if you see something you want, and you want to get it for a friend or family member, it’s probably good to jump on it.”
Part of the problem, UPS Price told AFP, is that low vaccination rates in countries that provide raw materials and components will continue to slow shipments, as higher rates of COVID-19 will lead to port closures. Once these shipments arrive at U.S. ports, they will likely wait to be unloaded due to a labor shortage here.
Experts say retailers are bracing for the inevitable pile-ups.
“Retailers are keenly aware of shipping bottlenecks and have placed their holiday orders amid still healthy consumer demand for retail,” wrote Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, in a blog this week. “They are faced with the fear that the items ordered will not arrive in time to reach the shelves for the holidays, given the recent unplanned port closures.”
A wide range of retailers, from Best Buy to Nordstrom, expect some stress, according to recent earnings calls compiled by the industry publication Retail Dive show. Many are organizing more transport, smoother logistics and earlier deliveries in preparation for the end of the year, according to the transcripts of the various calls. At Walmart and Target, open positions include more supply chain associates.
“It can vary from company to company, from industry to industry, even from store to store,” Rossman said. “Sometimes – and we saw this during back-to-school shopping – there are stores that are fully taken care of. And then a few miles away, they were really well stocked. So I think that’s one more reason to start early. Give yourself time, you know, don’t get caught up in all of this.