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Holiday Shopping and the Retail Supply Chain

November 24, 2021 Kevin Baxter

Shipping Time Ticking

Black Friday has traditionally signaled the beginning of the holiday shopping season. In 2021 though, those who've been paying attention to the news have gotten a head start. Retail supply chain concerns have led to warnings that Sally's favorite toy or Papa's new tablet may not be available to those who wait. Companies looking to get their products on the shelves most certainly needed a head start this year due to several factors slowing down the supply chain. But is there still hope as December approaches?

How Does the Supply Chain Affect Holiday Retail?

The supply chain affects holiday retail as it touches just about every aspect of a product. This includes suppliers of product components, factories where products are made, distribution centers, and the final destination of retail sale. Delays along any link in the supply chain can lead to shortages of products available for holiday shoppers. Those can include toys, electronics, clothing, and even Christmas trees.

Supply chain issues dating back several months are impacting the 2021 holiday season. Some items meant to be available weeks ago are just arriving to retailers now. Many others are still delayed. And others yet may simply never arrive. Those items that are available may be selling at higher prices, either due to scarcity or higher freight costs - or a combination of both.  

Why Are Stores Low on Inventory in 2021?

Retail supply chain issues that have slowed down inventory include shortages of warehouse space, labor at both the ports and among truck drivers, and shipping containers. Higher costs along the retail supply chain have also contributed to changes in freight activity. And of course, earlier on in the supply chain, shortages of components have led to manufacturing delays as well.

When it comes to the holiday shopping season, those issues have built over the course of the year and combined with high customer demand to create a perfect storm of inventory shortages.  The Washington Post provides four specific examples to take you through the current situation.  

Will the Supply Chain Situation Improve Soon?

Experts say the supply chain issues of 2021 are slowly beginning to improve. However, that improvement is unlikely to help this year's holiday shopping period. In fact, one reason agreed upon for the crisis easing is the post-holiday period of lower demand. The issues mentioned above are expected to continue to some degree well into next year, so it is unlikely to be smooth sailing along the supply chain for quite some time.

As for now, if items are still on a boat today, they're unlikely to be available for the holidays. But stores are finding ways to beat the crunch, having stocked up early, or shifting their focus to a smaller variety of products.

And there still may be hope for some loads if certain factors can be met. If your company's having trouble getting items across the finish line, let us know, and we'll see if we can use our expertise and connections in freight and logistics to help. 

If you're ready to take the next step, at InTek Freight & Logistics, we can help. Just tell us what you need and we'll discuss how our expertise can help with the unique shipping challenges your business faces. Rather do a bit more research first? View our Freight Guides for comprehensive articles and eBooks on all things freight and logistics.

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