Let go of the dogs! This weekend marks the start of the big holiday hunt, as shoppers set off in search of those perfect gifts, only to be confused by issues in the supply chain.
“COVID-related disruption, labor shortages and pent-up demand from consumers who are stuck at home and now hungry to spend have conspired,” said Robert Handfield, professor of operations and management of the supply chain at North Carolina State University. “Vacation shoppers are feeling the pressure of a constrained global supply chain.”
He then tries to describe the problem of the foot bone connected to the ankle bone to people like me. Ships carrying supplies, parts and products are stranded in port. Suppliers and manufacturers of parts and products need materials as well as workers, which are also scarce. Suppliers and manufacturers need trucks. And trucks need drivers. So shelves and warehouses are empty and Americans need gifts in time for the holidays.
Fa-la-la-la-la. It all just makes you want to throw in another eggnog.
Even though the product is available, buyers face higher prices and delivery delays. And don’t even think about waiting for a loud chord. Collect it while you can.
Much of the problem starts at the Port of Los Angeles, said Handfield, which is the largest port of entry for goods into the country. “The volume of the port of LA has increased by 30 to 40% compared to the same time last year. The ships are so stranded that they cannot unload their cargo, which mainly comes from China.
The problem is so serious that Walmart, predicting that the holiday merchandise would not arrive on time, asked some ships to turn around and back up, he added.
That doesn’t bode well for someone who cares about getting a PlayStation 5.
“What does a customer have to do? ” I ask.
Besides the obvious – buy and ship early – avoid the mentality that you have to give that person a certain something. Be open to other options, perhaps more thoughtful. “Finding a local handmade gift is better than buying the latest awesome mass-produced gadget in a Chinese factory,” Handfield said.
Despite the shortages, which could sure make the holidays frustrating and frustrating, here are 10 ways experts say we can beat supply chain woes.
1. Buy local. This not only supports the local economy, but it’s also the best way to avoid shipping delays and ensures you have your gifts on hand.
2. Buy American. Companies that manufacture and source domestically have much better control over their supply chain than those that depend on importation. For example, Red Land Cotton, a producer and manufacturer of cotton products, is not facing any port-related slowdown, said Anna Brakefield, co-owner of the business with her farmer father. The company grows cotton on the family farm in Alabama, then manufactures products in and around Georgia and South Carolina. Many of their competitors import cotton from India and China. This is a difference that Red Land boasts about in its advertising. “They have a legitimate point,” Handfield said. “Bringing manufacturing back to the United States not only gets around supply chain issues, it is good for the country as well. You can pay a little more, but we have to support American businesses and workers. “
3. Buy second-hand. As more Americans embrace sustainability and a reuse economy, they feel more comfortable buying second-hand gifts online from resellers, said Amanda Morse, co-owner of List Perfectly, an e-commerce tool that helps sellers post items to multiple reseller sites. According to a recent survey by Zogby Analytics, 38% of American adults planned to buy second-hand items as gifts. Buying second-hand allows gift givers to bypass supply chain shortages because they know the product exists. Now all they have to worry about is shipping. “When buying used, pay close attention to the seller’s shipping policies,” Morse said, “or you could end up buying from someone on vacation. “
4. Buy online and pick up in store. For that last minute shopper who needs that giveaway quickly, ordering online from a major retailer and then picking up the item at the nearest store can save precious shipping days; the runways of these stores are well greased.
5. Avoid anything that is out of stock or coming from another country. “Forget it,” Handfield said. “Today, the problem is not so much getting from the distribution center to your home; the bottleneck is the port. If it’s in the US and in stock, that’s fine. But if it’s out of stock and the stated delivery time is three to six weeks, be careful.
6. Avoid anything that has a chip. “Semiconductor chips are a huge problem, and backorders will continue throughout the year,” Handfield said. He also advises avoiding electronics in general.
7. Pay for premium shipping. Do it.
8. Ship directly. When you order gifts for distant friends and relatives, rather than having an item shipped to you, only so that you can wrap and ship it, ship it direct. Pay a small extra for the gift wrap if the seller offers it, or have someone in the recipient’s household wrap the gift for you.
9. Give subscriptions. Consider giving a consumable gift that keeps on giving. Here are some ideas for monthly subscriptions: Fresh flowers (BloomsyBox starting at $ 45 per month), assorted beauty products (Ipsy sells glam bags for $ 13 per month), gourmet meal kits (Blue Apron or Hello Fresh), massages monthly (Massage Envy or Hand & Stone), or, for the intellectually curious, a subscription to Master Class, which offers online courses from top talent for $ 180 per year. These gifts will not clutter up the cupboards and will not be out of stock.
10. Let the gift cards do the trick. And you can often send e-gift cards and skip shipping.
“Maybe,” I say to Handfield, as we finish our conversation about gifts, “by following this advice, many could enjoy their most meaningful Christmas yet.”
– All right, he said. “I am for less gifts from China and more heart.”
Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go”, “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One” and “What to Do With Everything You Own to leave the legacy you want. You can reach her at marnijameson.com.