Holiday shopping: Supply chain issues reason to 'act early'

On your shopping list, but out of stock – that's what experts say holiday shopping may be like in 2021 as supply chain issues linger.

What shoppers see may just be all they can get when it comes to store shelves.

"Stores have been trying very hard to replenish their inventories, but that’s what we've seen, very low inventory to sell," said economist Dr. Phil Levy.

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Amid a backlog of cargo ships on the West Coast, economist Dr. Phil Levy said, while a lot of the nation's products and parts enter the U.S. through California, the shortage dates back more than a year.

"It’s really been one of the features of the pandemic-era economy that we have a system that was logistically meant to handle holiday season, right, the crunch where you try to fill the stores for the holidays," Levy said, "but we’ve had a crunch for 18 months now."

Levy said the COVID-19 pandemic initially caused a shift in how people spent their money; instead of spending it on services, restaurants or gyms, they were buying goods. Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation anticipates historic holiday sales in 2021 with an expected increase of 8.5-10.5% over 2020. 

Demand still remains, Levy said, so don't wait to make purchases.

"I don’t think you should be as hopeful this season for the big sale where they have these doorbuster offerings to get everybody in, because people are coming in anyway and they don’t need to clear the shelves," said Levy. "The shelves are clearing themselves.

"If you have your heart set on something and you see it in that store window, don’t hesitate – get it now. You cannot be confident that there’s plenty more in the back, and that when somebody else buys that they will just replenish, they may not – so act early."

Levy said items across the board are being affected – from toys to furniture and applicants – and there is no end to the trend in sight, at least until well into 2022.

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