How will supply chain bottlenecks affect the holidays?

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – It’s like a scene straight from your favorite vacation movie.

Christmas Eve, and the perfect gift is nowhere to be found. This year, this classic trope – the panic shopping craze at the last minute – could become a reality for many people.

In view of the pandemic-related shortage of consumer goods, items are sold out faster than usual. Finding a new phone, pair of skis for the upcoming season, or – even still – your brand of toilet paper in the store can be difficult. And when the Christmas shopping picks up, it can get even harder to find a specific item. Local economists say that while there is cause for concern, there are still ways for buyers to find the perfect gift for everyone on their list.

“It looks like Christmas will be different this year,” said Michael Mamo, associate professor of economics at Westminster College. “Not only are prices rising, but people are also spending a lot more, which means there is a lot of catching up to do.”

Disruptions in the supply chain and the associated shortages in consumer goods are not news to most shoppers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, manufacturing facilities were shut down and production, storage, and shipping practices appeared to be turned upside down at the same time.

At the same time, consumers were panicking, buying in stores and ordering excess items online. Now if there is an order backlog, there are bottlenecks in the products in the ports – and a labor shortage exacerbates the problem even more.

“As soon as these disturbances occur, they usually have a domino effect,” says Mamo.

Buyers can also expect delivery delays this season, says Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic Policy Research and visiting professor at the University of Utah.

“If you expect to have it all in two to three days, that will likely not be true,” he says.

But while supply chain bottlenecks and associated delays present additional challenges to Christmas shopping this year, they don’t have to ruin the holidays. Both Mamo and Baker recommend shopping early to avoid retailers running out of certain products.

“Place your order as early as possible,” says Mamo. “Things could run out maybe a few weeks before the vacation. Many of us are used to shopping for gifts at the last minute. That could be a risk this year. “

It is difficult to say which articles will run out, says Baker. With excess cargo clogging port operations, the focus of workers is on clearing the docks to make room for the next ship, which is delaying the unpacking of some items.

“When a ship takes bicycles to shops in Salt Lake City and is pushed aside, other items are pushed forward,” he says. “It’s not even that people wanted to pay more for these other items, however [port workers] are in a hurry and that happens in the end. ”

Another way to shop this year is to check out local shops and artisans for gifts. Salt Lake City offers a variety of on-site shopping, from Maker’s Markets like Salt & Honey and The Hive Market to art galleries and stores like the Urban Arts Gallery and the Shop at UMOCA.

“When you see it in the store, you know you will have it,” says Baker. “If it’s made locally, you don’t have the problem of having to travel across the country.”

COVID-19 has changed many things in our lives and it seems this year’s Christmas shopping is no exception. But if we have learned anything, it is that there are ways to adapt.

“That’s the reality and we have to adapt to it,” says Mamo.


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