Skip to main content

How will the global supply chain problems affect gift-giving this year?

It feels like we just survived last Christmas, doesn’t it? Learning how to shop for the holidays during a pandemic may not have been fun, but we made it. We thought we would be in the clear for the holidays this year. But all you see on the news lately is the cargo ships sitting and waiting to be unloaded. If you are wondering if this foreshadows a Christmas shopping problem for this year, you’d be correct.

If you are panicking about this holiday season, you aren’t alone. Parents and families are wondering if their Christmas packages will arrive before Santa makes his appearance. If that worry has been on your mind as well, let’s dig into how the supply chain will affect holiday gifts and how you can make sure the tree isn’t empty on Christmas morning.

A woman wearing a holiday sweater holding some packages.

Port backups

There isn’t one single reason that’s making things a giant hot mess. It’s a few little things that are adding up, which might equal problems for you as you order your items. There are two main ports where the backup is occurring: the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, these are the ports at which almost all items come into the United States. But why the backup?

The worker shortage

In a nutshell, there aren’t enough workers. Let’s break that down.

The docks need workers to offload the goods

The labor shortage is affecting every step of the journey. The cargo ships sitting at the docks waiting to be unloaded are the start of it. Without workers to get the products off of the ships, those items can’t get to your local Target or Walmart.

There’s no one to drive the trucks

The containers of goods, supplies, and parts will sit at the port for about 10 days waiting to be put on trucks to reach their final destination. That time is getting longer because there aren’t workers to drive the trucks.

There are not enough warehouse workers

Once these items finally hit warehouses and factories, people are needed to unload the items. Those people just aren’t there.

The stores are extremely understaffed

The retail workers right now are overworked and tired to the bone. When shipments finally arrive at stores, there aren’t enough workers to process it. Stores are running on 1 to 2 person coverage. That’s to do everything, from opening your fitting room to ringing up your purchases, helping you find your items, processing shipments, and picking/packing/shipping your online orders. There are not enough people to get everything done. When you go into a store and see empty shelves, this is why.

A man holding Christmas packages.

What this shortage means for your ordering

Now that you’ve learned the behind-the-scenes magic that sets everything up for you to add that item to your cart, how can you prepare for the holiday gifting season? It can help to keep the following in mind:

It’s going to take longer than normal to get your package

Items sitting on cargo ships at the port and staffing shortages are going to cause delays, plain and simple, pandemic or not.

Prices will be higher

Unfortunately, that whole supply and demand thing is going to drive up prices of the hottest toys and electronics. Make sure you budget for this. The higher gas prices make getting your item from California to Ohio more expensive, too. All of the additional costs mean higher prices on the things you want.

What you can do

Order early

The main thing you can do is order that item right now. Go ahead – we’ll wait while you click “buy”. The sooner you purchase your gifts the better. With most return policies for Christmas more forgiving with the time frame, it will be better to get items now and have the option to return them later.

Be open to comparable items

You might have to get that sweater in another style or those headphones in another color. If you are open to being flexible, you’ll be better off. Don’t get stuck on the brand name; instead, focus on the item. If a different brand has the reviews to back it up, even if it isn’t the exact one you imagined, go for it.

Stay calm and have a backup idea

Please try to remain level-headed. If you cannot find the item you are looking for, have a second option ready to order. Santa might make a list and check it twice, but you’ll need to make a list and have a second list ready in case you can’t get the first list ordered in time.

A family gathered around a device ordering presents.

If your gift won’t arrive in time

If you did order a gift too late and won’t get it in time, don’t stress. You can still have a beautiful holiday.

Get creative with the presents

Think outside the box. Yearly passes to the museum, tickets for a comedy show or play for a future date, or another experience the person has wanted to do would be perfect.

Shop local

This is the biggest and the best thing you can do to avoid all of the problems with the global supply chain issue this holiday season. Find your locally owned toy or electronics store. Buying from your community goes right back into your neighborhood, and that personal connection can’t be replicated with something off of Amazon.

Search for local makers and artists in your area, and buy at craft fairs, holiday bazaars, and farmer’s markets. Think creatively and even take a stab at making some homemade gifts or treats of your own.

If you haven’t thought about buying the first present yet – start now. You won’t want to wait until the week before Christmas if you are dead set on certain items. This holiday season you are going to have to be more relaxed and open to ideas for gifts.

While you are doing your holiday shopping, please be kind to the workers out there. They are trying their best while short-staffed. So, buy early and be prepared to go with a similar item. Have fun, get creative, and think about supporting your local shops so you don’t have to keep checking the delivery date.

Editors' Recommendations