Retailers and logistics experts say, like everything else in 2020, this year's holiday shopping season will be like no other. You can expect delays, out of stock items and missed deadlines.
David Bolotsky is the founder and CEO of the online retailer Uncommon Goods, which connects independent artists, designers and makers with customers. The Brooklyn-based company was at the epicenter of the pandemic and had to shut down for three months. Then, when everyone started shopping again, they did well.
Now, they, and many other businesses, are encouraging people to get started on their shopping. No need to wait for Black Friday. In fact, they're warning people to start before Thanksgiving. Like now.
“Demand has been strong and a friend of mine calls it ‘Shipaggedon,' concern about what’s going to happen in the transportation network,” says Bolotsky, who also says the supply chain will be limited. “What I think it means for shoppers is if you see something you want, I would buy it now; stick it under the tree.”
Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, chief growth office at Convey, a technology company that helps retailers with on time deliveries said, “All the delivery trucks are out and they are busy, you may not have heard of it but there’s sort of a shortage going on right now. They’re having a capacity crunch, not enough drivers, not enough trucks not enough warehouses right now, because of all the things the pandemic has done. We’ve started shopping online more and more and no one anticipated it.”
Logistics and shipping are her expertise.
“We help them think about what are the trucks doing what are the packages doing what’s happening with on time delivery what kind of damage is happening so they can give consumers the best delivery experience- holidays or not,” Newbold-Knipp said.
This year, holiday gifts will undergo a true supply and demand issue, magnified by a pandemic and already backfilled orders. Add in staffing made difficult by things like social distancing and we've got problems.
“The other thing that consumers don’t think about is that the actual warehouse space to be able to fulfill orders is limited. They might not have the inventory so fulfillment times are delaying, the pick and pack piece is taking longer and the trucking piece is taking longer,” said Newbold-Knipp.
She said consumers need to think ahead, have a backup plan, look for alternatives, use multiple retailers, shop locally, and sign up for text alerts.
"Only 5% are signing up for SMS alerts, but by regulation the retailer can’t spam you. They’re only allowed to send you a transactional note via text,” Newbold-Knipp said.
She also said things that tend to sell out are the items that don't have much variation, such as televisions, toys and specific electronics.
“If we see the kind of growth at Christmas that we’ve seen the last few months, we could be looking at 50% growth over last year in terms of online demand,” Bolotsky
He recommends having Santa come early, and hide those items until the big day.