Shop early plan ahead

As producers and consumers across the country gear up for the largest shopping season of the year, many can’t help but worry about the looming product accessibility issues many states have been having as both the pandemic and supply chain issues press on.

When the start of the pandemic hit retail in 2020, both producers and consumers were slammed with supply issues, when thousands of factories and retailers closed their doors.

With halted production and demand skyrocketing, millions were without access to the many goods they often found without issue. Now, almost two years later, even as retailers’ doors have been open to the 

public, there remains a struggle for thousands of businesses across the United States. 

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, retailers are struggling to keep inventory on the shelves, despite officials’ long efforts to meet high demands. As the busiest shopping season of the year begins, many are wondering will this impact gift buying during the second holiday season during COVID-19. 

Home Depot Retail Employee, Edgar Carreon, says he’s seen the firsthand effects of the pandemic on the billion dollar companies’ stock and has been doubting that will change for the holidays. 

“There’s a lot of low inventory we’re seeing. Tools, devices, you name it. A lot of customers are coming in asking where everything is and when we’re going to get the product back in. With Christmas coming there’s always a demand for the type of items we carry and this year it seems a lot of that will be limited, just like it has been for the past few months.” The often unanswerable question has left it hard for employees to reassure consumers that what they’re looking for will be back on the shelves any time soon. 

But despite this reality for retail workers, retail officials believe this holiday season will not disappoint, as retailers are projecting an increase in revenue, even more than last year when many Americans were offered pandemic assistance. Kentucky Retail Federation Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Steve McClain, says that although the trend has been lacking product, gift buying this holiday season won’t suffer as much as customers may think. “From the National Retail Federation, as well as other surveys and groups, there is a prediction that it will be a good holiday season, partly because consumers were able to save some money due to stimulus and other government pandemic assistance, so they’re predicting an 8.5 to 10.5% increase in sales nationally during the shopping season. The online portion of it has continued to increase with no signal of that slowing down, so that will continue to increase again as well.” 

He says the biggest issue for stores right now is trying to navigate supply chain issues. 

“It’s not that there is a shortage, it’s a matter of being able to get the products from the warehouse to the store, from the ports and the boats into the stores.” McClain says what the NRF is seeing has been stores trying to be proactive, getting ahead by ordering more than what they may need, to ensure there will be enough to go around. 

“Some were able to get products in, so now we’re hearing some of them say they should have plenty to get through the holiday season. The purchasing demand is where the numbers are coming from. So, holiday shopping should be above last year.”

Despite the expectation that there will be slim pickings, officials believe that retailers will make adjustments to keep stores stocked. But just in case, McClain advises changing up your normal routine as you shop for gifts this year. 

“The message we want to put out is to shop early, look early and be flexible in what you’re looking for. That may mean you’re looking at a different brand. Be open to other choices. Go into other stores. That’s where you’ve got an opportunity for smaller, local retailers. You may find what you’re looking for. While it’s been challenging in general, retail has been adapted and worked to find new outlets to serve their customers. These are even strategies we will continue to see.”

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