Christmas tree lots are open and carols are ringing out from the radio, but snarled supply chains and higher prices may make this holiday season less than jolly as shoppers struggle to find certain gifts.More than 6 in 10 holiday shoppers said they have already found items marked “out of stock” while browsing for presents, according to a pre-Thanksgiving survey by the consultancy Deloitte.Fifty-four percent said they noticed higher prices.”There is a triple whammy facing consumers this shopping season: higher prices, limited quantities, and some empty store shelves from earlier sales that have since ended,” says Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate, who blamed shipping delays and inflation for the challenges.
“There are always shortages of the year’s hot toys or tech items, but all these factors make it worse this year.” A global shortage of semiconductor chips may make it particularly tricky to find the latest model smartphone, gaming console, and other technology-related gadgets and appliances, retail experts say.”It’s anything that has the chips in them,” says Glenn O’Donnell, research director for Forrester Research, noting that phones, smart appliances, even toys with Bluetooth connectivity will be harder to find.”If it walks and talks, you’re probably going to see some shortages on those things.” To top it off, bots may scoop up hard-to-get items, allowing some sellers to charge much more for coveted items.
So what’s a shopper to do? “It’s more just about having an open mind and doing a bit of research,” says Casey Runyan, vice president and managing editor for the discount site Brad’s Deals.”Have a Plan B, and don’t be afraid to …look for gifts that are more unique.” Here are a few ways shoppers can navigate this gift-buying season.
Black Friday sales have been rolling out since early November and with headlines warning that certain gifts will be hard to find, 70% of holiday shoppers began their buying by the last week of October, according to the Deloitte survey.Despite the early rush, shoppers still have a chance to get discounts from now through Cyber Monday on November 29.This week may be the last chance before Christmas to get a decent deal, some consumer experts warn.”If you don’t shop on arguably the two best shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it may be too late to get a really deep discount until Christmas clearance,” says Dworsky, the consumer advocate and founder of the publication Consumer World.►How much will Thanksgiving cost me?: Thanksgiving dinner costs more.
Here are tips on how to save and ways to find a free turkey ►Shoppers more cautious: Americans are shopping less often and limiting impulse buys as COVID breeds a more cautious consumer If you can’t immediately nab the Nintendo Switch OLED console or the latest Xbox, plenty of low-tech options exist, from board games to Legos to stuffed animals.
“I believe at some level we’re going to have more of a low-tech Christmas,” says O’Donnell.”Instead of (the video game) Words With Friends, it’s good old-fashioned Scrabble with physical tiles.” Some of those low-tech toys may also be delayed because of overseas shipping delays but at least they won’t be unavailable because of the chip shortage, he says.If you really want a laptop or smartphone and can’t get a new model, you may want to pick up one that’s refurbished.Just make sure you deal with a reputable retailer, like Best Buy, Verizon or Walmart, and get an item that’s been refurbished by the manufacturer.
“A lot of people are wary of refurbished items,” says Runyan.But when you purchase a certified refurbished computer from Apple, for instance, “it’s a completely clean and fixed machine …And the warranty is just as long as if it was a new Mac.” Whatever the device, be sure to get a warranty that lasts as long as one for a never-been-used version, typically one year, she says.You can avoid the supply chain altogether by gifting tickets to a concert, sporting event or plays.
Meanwhile, subscriptions can be the gift that keeps on giving, experts say.
“Supply-chain disruptions have created a lot of uncertainty,” says Dan McCarthy, an assistant professor of marketing at Emory’s Goizueta Business School.”As people look for alternatives, this could be a pretty promising area that checks a lot of boxes.” Subscription boxes can be a nice treat particularly since shoppers don’t expect specific items.The subscription services are “supposed to create experiences and meals and products people wouldn’t have seen or used before,” McCarthy says.
“They’re in control of product assortment.They can choose gifts or items that are in stock …They have that wiggle room that you wouldn’t have with something very specific like an iPhone.” Roughly 75% of Americans have purchased at least one previously used item in the last year, citing everything from bargain hunting to sustainability, according to an October report by the online marketplace company Mercari and retail consultancy GlobalData.American shoppers are projected to spend more than $160 billion on used merchandise this year, a 14.6% increase from 2020, according to the survey.Some clothing brands could be harder to find because of the supply logjam.But thrift stores or online sites like Poshmark or Tradesy, which sell used clothing and accessories, can be an alternative.Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter @charissejones .
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