OPINION: Don't let shortages spoil your holiday shopping
If you're waiting until Black Friday to start your holiday shopping, there may not be much left.
Snags in the supply chain are expected to make popular gifts harder to come by this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has created shortages in essential items needed to make many of the products that typically fill holiday wish lists. Purchasing the perfect present may require some faster, proactive action.
The microchip scarcity, for example, has made it more difficult to connect with high-demand tech products such as gaming systems, computers, and smart appliances. Toys that feature light, sound and motion may be harder to find, too.
Retailers have taken notice, and as a result, holiday promotions are popping up earlier than ever.
But even if you are seeing those deals sooner, there may not be as many. Businesses have less incentive to place items on sale when inventory is running low.
Retailers are also having to pay more than usual for inventory making it harder to offer the same bargains they did last year. In fact, you may face escalating prices as supplies become depleted.
Shortages don't have to ruin your holidays, though. Getting all the right gifts for your friends and family is still an achievable goal. It may just require faster action and added flexibility.
Better Business Bureau recommends taking these steps as you get a jumpstart on holiday shopping:
• Start with a strategy. Identify the gifts you think may be more popular this holiday season and target those items first. If laptops, gaming consoles, or smart devices are products your family wants this year, then it's time to get moving. Supply chain issues have already made some items unavailable until next year.
• Set a budget. Expect the prices of some gifts to skyrocket. Retailers have had to pay more to offer some items, so they may not be extending deals to customers. Establishing a budget may help corral your spending amidst some crazy costs. This may even be a good year to consider purchasing fewer presents.
• Build a backup plan. Getting what you want when you want and at the price you want is likely not going to happen this winter. Not easily, anyway. So, try to adjust your expectations and come up with some alternatives should things not play out like you hope. If you know a microchip shortage has made some items scarcer than usual, then shop for gifts that are less likely to be impacted. Outdoor toys, for example, should remain in stock at affordable prices.
• Be a cautious customer. High demand and limited supplies are perfect conditions for customers to be taken advantage of. It's important to remember that when a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Counterfeit goods are expected to be more common this year, too. Check out these tips to help you become a smarter consumer.
• Shop local. This will be a great year to visit small businesses in your area. Handcrafted goods are perfect last-minute gifts to help support your local community.
Researching vendors you're unfamiliar with is the best way to make sure you're doing business with a legitimate retailer. Use trusted websites, including BBB.org.
For more consumer tips, visit trust-bbb.org.
Ben Spradling is marketplace manager for the Better Business Bureau Great West + Pacific.
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