As holiday season approaches, supply chain experts are imploring Americans to shop as early as possible.
A truck-driver shortage paired with shipping delays means that online orders might take longer than usual to arrive at your home. Plus, you might have trouble finding exactly what you want either online or in stores, says Scott Grawe, chair of the department of supply chain management at Iowa State University.
"Yes, you are going to see shortages," he says. "Not just on decor, but on goods. So if you're out doing holiday shopping and you're waiting until Black Friday or sometime between Black Friday and the holiday, you're going to find a lot of emptier shelves."
Here are four items to buy now before they sell out in the coming months.
Booksellers are encouraging consumers to buy now if they plan to gift books during the holidays, according to Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com. "Supply chain disruptions are affecting the amount of books you'll find on shelves, so if there's a particular title you're looking for, it's best to grab it when you can," she says.
Planning ahead is especially important if the book you're interested in hasn't been released yet. "If there's an upcoming title you want, it's best to go ahead and preorder it. But beware that those supply chain disruptions and shipping delays could mean you won't have your title on release day, unlike in previous years," Ramhold says.
"Manufacturers have been warning consumers since the middle of summer, if not earlier in the year, that toys are going to be hard to come by this holiday season," Ramhold says.
Shoppers can expect to see less choice and higher prices on toys as the year goes on. Hasbro, for example, has said it expects to raise prices during the fourth quarter as its own costs increase.
Retailers are "experiencing a labor shortage in all departments," Ramhold says. There aren't enough workers to unload shipping containers at ports. And even if the inventory makes it to land, no one is able to drive it to warehouses.
"This is one of the products that will be scarce in coming months as retailers encourage parents to shop for toys early," she says.
Anything manufactured overseas will experience shipping delays, but holiday decor is "especially troublesome," Ramhold says. This is due to the high demand in a short time period.
"In a normal year, consumers have a small window of time where these purchases make sense, but this year, that window could be even smaller," Ramhold says. You may want to buy decor for all holidays from Halloween through New Year's.
This goes for Halloween costumes, too, consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch says. "Costumes could sell out in early October, so don't delay shopping or you will have limited options to choose from," she says.
For kids' costumes, she suggests going to Costco. "You can usually find more deluxe-style costumes that come with all your needed accessories at a much better price than a specialty retailer like Party City," she says. The store is also taking steps to keep shelves stocked this fall.
If you were thinking of upgrading your oven before Thanksgiving, "you don't want to wait too much longer or you could miss out on getting one in time for the holiday," Woroch says.
Orders of large household appliances like ovens and fridges are experiencing significant shipping delays that will likely become worse as the year goes on.
Can't find exactly what you need online? There is another option, she adds. "If the model you want isn't available to ship by Thanksgiving, head to a local retailer to see what they have in stock near you," she says. "You may be able to score a good deal on a floor model."
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