Why You Should Start Holiday Shopping Now

Here's what you need to know about the predicted shortages and shipping delays this year.

September 30, 2021

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Photo by: mallmo/Getty Images

mallmo/Getty Images

One of the biggest questions when it comes to holiday shopping is when to start. Some shoppers are early birds and have gifts wrapped before Thanksgiving rolls around. Others believe the holiday season — and shopping — doesn’t start until after the turkey dinner. This year, there's an additional hiccup to consider: supply chain issues. With pandemic restrictions easing and holidays right around the corner, retailers are having trouble keeping up with consumer demand because of issues like delayed shipments, material and labor shortages and staffing challenges. What does this mean for your holiday shopping strategy? Below, we explain what potential shortages and delays mean for the holiday season, and how you can stress less and give every gift right on time.

What Supply Chain Issues Mean for Your Holiday Shopping

One of the major consequences of supply chain issues — in addition to short supply — is pricing. High demand with low supply leads many retailers (especially small businesses) to raise prices to meet their bottom line. This means, that air fryer or stand mixer you were looking to snag might cost more than you were expecting, which affects how you look at your gifting budget. Make a list of which items on your list are most important and price-check them now. If you can afford to buy them full-price, we recommend you do, stat. In-demand products may not be as available for the big sale holidays this year.

Flexibility is also key when it comes to successful shopping this year. While there are always going to be brands and models that are considered the best of the best, most product categories have multiple options that fit the bill. For help choosing the right product to gift, check out our Food Network Kitchen-tested product reviews. You'll find hundreds of products with worthwhile features that would make great gifts for many people on your list.

Finally, if you love gifting cookbooks, check with your local bookstore to see when they plan to start stocking new titles. The publishing industry is expecting a book shortage because of labor and material shortages, so pre-ordering and early shopping are more important than ever, especially for independent bookstores.

When to Shop Online

Finish placing online orders about two weeks before the holiday you’re celebrating. Online shopping success is dependent on shipping time, and many brands continue to experience shipping delays. What used to take a couple of days to make it to your front door, may take a whole week (or longer) now.

Many major retailers offer next-day and same-day shipping, especially around the holidays. Before relying on same-day shipping methods from any retailer, make sure you’re located within the same-day delivery radius. We also recommend planning to place your final same-day shipping orders a week before the holiday you’re celebrating in case of unexpected shipping delays or stocking issues.

Finally, if a product you’re looking for is out of stock online, give customer service a call to find out if it will be restocked or if a unit can be shipped to you from a nearby store. Sometimes you may even get free shipping or an in-store discount for your trouble.

When to Shop In-Person

This is not the year to leave any shopping to the last minute and that includes shopping in-person. In-demand and big-ticket items will sell out fast in stores, and many may not have the as much stock as you're used to. Leave your in-person shopping for unique gifts and impulse buys, which, let's be honest, are the most fun part of gift-giving. Cute stocking stuffers, white elephant gifts and last-minute hostess gifts can all be bought while browsing boutiques or holiday shops on a free weekend.

And don't forget store pick-up. Major retailers like Target and Walmart offer store pickup year-round, and we anticipate similar offerings this year for the holidays. If you love the experience of in-store shopping or can't wait a week for an online purchase, we recommend this route to ensure the product you need in available and ready for you when you need it.

When to Shop Small Businesses

Small businesses continue to need our support more than ever. We encourage you to shop small as much as possible, and this holds especially true during the holidays. This year, getting started early is important for a few reasons. First, many small businesses are still struggling to stay open due to lack of revenue for rent, PPE and other necessities. Simply put, waiting a couple months to buy gifts at your local shop might be too late.

Shipping might take longer than usual, especially from a small-owned business which may only make drops to the post office a couple of times a week. Shopping early will give your gifts plenty of time to arrive. And, lastly, as more small businesses move online, inventory sells out fast, so you should buy gifts when you see them in stock to avoid missing out on the perfect gift for your loved ones.

When to Shop Sales

You might be accustomed to waiting until Black Friday and Cyber Monday to snag large discounts on holiday shopping, but this year we’re shopping sales on a rolling basis. Thanks to stocking issues, major items may not be available for purchase come November. Amazon is expected to begin holiday sales as early as October and we expect other retailers to follow suit.

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