Several weeks ago, Amy Dallaire started talking about holiday shopping with the other moms at her children’s dance class near Somerset, Massachusetts.
“Two of them said they were already finished,” said Dallaire. “They were making me nervous. I left the class thinking, ‘I better get on it!’”
That night, Dallaire went online to try to find toys for her two daughters, ages 5 and 8, weeks before she'd normally start shopping. She came across the Magic Mixies Magic Cauldron that she thought they would both like. It even was on sale, $10 less than its listed price of $69.99. There was just one problem: it wasn’t actually available.
“It wasn’t in-store and you couldn’t get it delivered and you couldn’t get it shipped to a store," Dallaire said.
Welcome to one of the most complicated holiday shopping seasons ever. It's not even Halloween yet, but concerns about stock shortages, most commonly associated with toys and electronics, is prompting consumers to shop earlier than ever this year.
“We’re in a unique situation from what we have seen, historically,” said Matt Kramer, national sector leader of consumer and retail at KPMG. “Supply chain issues are typically more isolated and retailers can adjust. Currently, supply chain challenges are in multiple areas, including production delays from delta variant impacted countries, container shortages, port delays, labor shortages at the port with truck drivers and at retailers.”
As retailers ramp up efforts to get products on the shelves, it’s costing them money, and consumers are paying the price, said Dana Telsey, CEO and Chief Research Officer of Telsey Advisory Group (TAG). “Doorbusters are limited and it’s going to be a very lean promotional year overall."
Given the circumstances, many shoppers are considering gifting ‘experiences,' according to Rod Sides, vice chairman and leader of the Retail, Wholesale & Distribution practice at Deloitte.
“It’s a key area driving the gains in holiday spending,” Sides said.
'Driving an hour' or more for holiday shopping
Michelle Keldgord, of Southern California, is looking into taking her family to Disney.
“Everything seems really expensive right now and I can’t find anything I want — sizes, colors,' she said. "I may take the money I save and spend it on travel.”
Others, like Kat Trainor of Bronxville, New York, are shopping local. “I know they have their problems, too, but they have better options, quality, and more unusual items,” said Trainor, who picked up a few gifts while vacationing with her family in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains last summer. “Plus, it makes my heart glow when I buy locally.”
Americans are more willing than ever to travel great distances for that very feeling — especially after a year of lockdowns.
“We have a ton of new customers driving an hour, an hour and a half to buy the joy and happiness that we’re selling,” said Julie Gannon Ritchie, owner of The Toy Box, in Hanover, Massachusetts.
Still others, like Ryan Zamo of Los Angeles, California, are going with practical, if not personal, gifts this year.
Zamo has had no luck finding the Nike sneakers he wanted to get for his brother and has yet to see any intriguing promotional offers. And he still hasn't found the Nvidia graphics card his gaming husband wants even though he started searching last summer.
“I’ve been everywhere — Walmart, Target, Amazon," he said. “I’m going to tell everyone they’re just getting gift cards this year."
Personal Finance Journalist Vera Gibbons is a former staff writer for SmartMoney magazine and a former correspondent for Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Vera, who spent over a decade as an on air Financial Analyst for MSNBC, currently serves as co-host of the weekly nonpolitical news podcast she founded, NoPo. She lives in Palm Beach, Florida.