Christmas present Stock image

Though it is still mid-November, experts suggest people start their holiday shopping now. 

1. Spending patterns  

The National Retail Federation closely tracks and predicts holiday related spending every year. According to the federation, 2021 holiday shopping “has the potential to shatter previous records.” 

The NRF reported in an Oct. 21 release that its annual survey found that “Consumers plan to spend $997.73 on gifts, holiday items and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families this year. … Despite the continued supply chain disruption, this is on par with consumer spending last year.”

Meanwhile, 90% of U.S. adults plan to celebrate at least one winter holiday this year, according to the NRF. This is up from 87% last year. In total, holiday spending is predicted to be between $843.4 billion and $859 billion, which would be a 8.5% and 10.5% increase, respectively, over 2020. 

2. Supply Chain crisis 

While 2021 is predicted to break records for money spent during the holiday season, the ongoing supply chain crisis will likely impact shopping trends and availability. 

The causes of the crisis are complicated, to say the least. One large factor has been the COVID-19 pandemic. MIT Sloan Management Review, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology publication, reported, “A shift to working from home, along with school closures, fueled increased demand for larger houses, home gadgets, computer and communications gear, furniture, toys, and recreational equipment. Such a dramatic shift would have strained manufacturing in the best of times. During the pandemic, manufacturers could not adjust in time to bridge gaps between supply and demand as they dealt with ongoing labor and material shortages, intermittent plant closures and shipping delays.”

MIT Sloan Management Review predicts that supply and demand will return to equilibrium in the second quarter of 2022 at the earliest. 

3. So what does this mean for the 2021 holiday season?

When people begin buying for the upcoming holiday season they will likely discover two things. First, that many popular items have risen in price since before the pandemic and second, many items will be out of stock. 

Consumer Reports advised readers in October that due to a current microchip shortage, many electronics will be challenging to find. This includes children’s toys that have a technological element. 

YouGov, an international research data and analytics group, reported in early October that “Three in five Americans - and more than two in five Britons - have found it harder to buy their preferred products in the last six months.” Common products that were difficult to find included technology and clothing items. This was in October, before the holiday rush. 

Cargo ship

One of the many factors in the supply chain crisis is the shipping container shortage and backups that have resulted in cargo ships waiting to be loaded and unloaded for days. 

4. Tips for holiday shopping 

It is still possible to get that perfect gift or classic holiday meal this year, but shoppers may need to be a bit more strategic. Here are a few tips: 

  • Start shopping now. The resounding consensus is that individuals should start shopping as soon as they can since there is no promise that everything on wish lists will be on shelves the weeks before Christmas. 

  • Don’t rely on deliveries to arrive last minute. Shipping delays have been common since last year. The New York Times reported that factors include more people staying home than before the pandemic and purchasing items online, shipping container shortages, and backups that have resulted in cargo ships sitting and waiting for days to be unloaded. The same factors that result in fewer items on store shelves also affect when items are delivered. 

  • Be flexible. Preferred items and name brands may be hard to find. Look for alternatives that will work for you. 

5. By the numbers 

Christmas Stock image

To ensure that everything on your Christmas list is available, start shopping now. 

The NRF publishes holiday spending predictions and data every year. Here are some of the predictions released this year: 

  • 61% of shoppers began shopping by the beginning of November. This is the highest percentage of early shoppers recorded by NRF. The previous highest percentage was recorded in 2020 with 59%. 

  • The average consumer is predicted to spend $998 on holiday items. This breaks down to $648 on gifts, $118 on holiday purchases other than gifts, and $231 on food and decorations.

  • The top five items on wish lists are: 

    • Gift cards: 56%

    • Clothing and accessories: 47%

    • Books and other media: 32%

    • Electronics: 27%

    • Home decor: 25%

  • 57% of holiday items will be purchased online. 

  • The top five toys requested by boys are: 

    • LEGOs

    • Cars and trucks

    • Hot Wheels

    • Playstation 

    • Video games 

  • The top five toys request by girls are: 

    • Barbie 

    • Dolls

    • LOL Dolls 

    • LEGOs

    • Apple products/smartphones 

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