With supply-chain problems frightful, holiday shoppers are expected to get early start

Black Friday is so 2019, back before COVID-19 restrictions shut down stores and manufacturing plants and the pandemic triggered supply-chain problems that continue to boomerang around the globe.

This year, economists say the earlier people start holiday shopping the better. People appear to be getting the message.

A new survey by Deloitte found that 43% of the respondents in are concerned they won’t find the items they want because of snarls in the supply chains that move goods from factories to shelves in stores. The survey shows that 75% of shoppers plan to start their holiday buying before Thanksgiving, which means before Black Friday, the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving shopping kickoff.

The start of the shopping season has been a moving target for several years, particularly with the rise in e-commerce. This year, shoppers and businesses alike are preparing even earlier to make sure they’re not left empty handed.

“It is driving the speed, the cadence at which people are going out and doing their shopping,” Jay Behringer, managing director of Deloitte Services LP in Denver, said of worries about the availability of products. “The locals in Denver say the No. 1 reason they want to go shopping earlier is to ensure on-time delivery of their orders.”

Behringer said 54% of those surveyed are concerned about the delivery date, while 43% want to avoid problems with products being out of stock. Denver shoppers are especially concerned about being able to find electronics and accessories and toys.

National retail executives contacted by Deloitte are also anxious about the impact of ongoing supply-chain disruptions. Behringer said 43% of the approximately 30 executives surveyed expect delays in orders and 64% are worried about receiving goods on time.

President Joe Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles would operate 24/7 to try to break the logjam of shipping containers waiting to be unloaded. Shortages of containers for goods waiting to be shipped and of truck drivers to move items piled up in ports and rail yards are worsening the situation.

Ed O’Brien, the founder of Denver-based B4Adventure, which sells outdoor recreation products for families, told KMGH-TV that he has lost about $1 million because of a huge spike in shipping container costs, delays and lost sales.

The National Retail Federation also expects uncertainty about inventories to motivate shoppers to hit the stores or the keyboards earlier than usual. New projections by the business organization and Prosper Insights & Analytics said 49% of shoppers are expected to start buying before November, up from 42% in 2020 and the highest percentage in the survey’s history.

“The retail industry is working diligently with ports, labor, shippers and transportation providers as well as government officials to overcome supply chain challenges and make sure consumers have access to the gifts they want to give and, just as important, receive,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the retail federation, said in a statement.

Uncertainty aside, people seem ready to dig a little deeper in their wallets this year for holiday gifts, according to the Deloitte and National Retail Federation surveys. In its first-ever breakout of Denver data, Deloitte said local shoppers are expected to spend an average of $1,705 each, 17% more than the national average of $1,463.

The annual National Retail Federation survey said consumers plan to spend $997.73 this holiday season, on par with 2020 and slightly below $1047.83 in 2019.

Despite a decline of anxiety about the coronavirus,  51% a year ago to 41%, Deloitte said Denver respondents anticipate doing 62% of their shopping online. About a third expect to shop in stores.

And Behringer said Denverites plan to spend 38% more on experiences than the national average. “That’s either entertaining at home or socializing away from home,” he said.

This Deloitte survey was conducted online in September and polled a national sample of 4,315 people and 413 in Denver. The margin of error for the local sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The National Retail Federation survey polled 7,921 people in early October and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

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