For years, holiday shopping did not officially kick off until Black Friday sales started the day after Thanksgiving.
Last year the shopping season began earlier as retailers pushed for online sales amid the pandemic. Holiday shopping is starting even earlier this year because of ongoing supply chain disruptions and labor shortages.
Instead of weeks ahead of the holidays, many consumers have now started their shopping months ahead over concerns that items on their lists won’t be delivered on time or won’t be available.
The logistics bottlenecks are getting worse with China closing factories, an ongoing shortage in shipping containers, and not enough truck drivers to deliver items.
“You’ve got labor-related issues. You’ve got issues of lack of availability of empty containers and space on vessels. Port congestion here in the United States, workforce issues with trucker availability and warehouse workers,” said Jon Gold, a vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, to Recode. “The entire system has been stretched.”
If last year’s hunt for a Xbox or PlayStation seemed stressful, it may be nothing compared to what is happening now. Some of the hottest holiday purchases are gaming consoles, but unfortunately these items are the most vulnerable to shortages.
They made many of these devices from different components that need to be put together and all this needs to happen in sync for timely deliveries. As components come from specialized manufacturing factories spread around different countries, it’s becoming impossible to ensure that they will be ready in time.
The global chip supply shortage is also affecting many tech devices and as a result, large chip makers have raised the prices on the brands used for making computers and other gadgets.
This means laptops, printers, and even smart phones are seeing price increases next to shortages. Apple CEO Tim Cook warned this summer that silicon supply constraints would affect sales of the popular iPhone as well as other products like the iPad.
Retailers across the board are acknowledging the dire situation and have started early access to sales events.
This includes big box retailer Walmart, who recently announced that Black Friday deals will kick off at the beginning of November. The retailer will have three shopping events spread throughout the month, with deals available both online and in stores.
“Our customers count on us to deliver an amazing Black Friday experience with the best prices year after year, and this year we’re making it even bigger and better with more ways to shop and more of every item,” said Scott McCall, executive vice president of Walmart.
Stores like Best Buy, Target and a few others have already started their Black Friday sales.
Best Buy launched its holiday shopping season more than a month before Black Friday, with sales starting on Oct. 19. The retailer will have sales for tech, toys, home goods, as well as gaming. The company will also have another sales event on November 19th.
Target has already started its holiday deals on October 10-12, with its “Target Deal Days” giving price cuts on items that include headphones, TVs, and clothes.
Black Friday-worthy deals have also arrived early at e-commerce giant Amazon, including TVs, the Instant Pot, and the Fire TV Stick.
One of the most exciting parts of the holiday season for kids has always been hot new toys. Naturally, parents are increasingly worried whether these toys will be available on time for the holidays.
Data from The Toy Association has revealed that over 85% of toys sold in the U.S. are manufactured overseas.
Bottlenecks at ports are delaying deliveries, and shipping costs have skyrocketed. The cost for shipping containers has risen in the last year from $3,500 to “well over $20,000,” says Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation.
According to Steve Pasierb, the CEO of the Toy Association, it is an end-to-end failure that’s been building since the pandemic.
“From the factories in China to the ports in Asia to the ports here in the United States, to the U.S. trucking industry. Every step along the way there’s been complications that have led to this massive backlog of containers, ships and cargo that may not make it to stores in time for the holidays,” said Pasierb.
One toy store owner in Ohio has expressed that when his store puts in orders, all they can do is hope for the best. “Honestly when we put those orders in we’re kind of crossing our fingers that they will get here before Christmas time,” remarked Allen Singleton.
Jillian Wahlquist, vice president of Tom’s Toys , an independent retailer with three locations in California has even warned parents that if there’s a special toy or something that they are really looking for, that they should buy it now.
While the world may emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the destructive issue of global supply chains is only now getting started.
Expert Tim Uy of Moody’s Analytics said on Monday that supply chain problems “will get worse before they get better.”
“As the global economic recovery continues to gather steam, what is increasingly apparent is how it will be stymied by supply-chain disruptions that are now showing up at every corner,” he added.