Experts and Retailers Predict Pandemic Supply Chain Problems Will Impact Local Holiday Shopping | Local News

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Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

This marks the start of the watershed time of year for many retailers, leaving one question in mind:

Will they make a profit and end up in the dark, or lose money and end up in the red?

Sometimes stores run specials, lowering the prices of certain items, causing shoppers to camp out at night to be the first to line up when the doors open. That way, they can be sure to get the perfect gift for a son or daughter, husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend – or maybe even themselves.

And sometimes stores open these Fridays at an unholy hour like midnight or 5 a.m. a mad race for whatever they are looking for in the material world. And because of this, sometimes Black Friday becomes a gloomy day if rushed crowds trample people to death or if altercations in parking lots result in deadly fights.

In total, there were 14 deaths and 117 injuries on Black Friday from 2006 to 2020, according to statistics maintained by blackfridaydeathcount.com, a website that aggregates news from these reports.

But this year is different. The pandemic has exposed the discord in supply chains. All kinds of products are scarce, and retail experts are unanimous: if you want something special, buy it now, if you can find it.

So this shortage of goods leads to more questions. Will it lead to worse fights for less products? Will early shopping calm the season by lengthening it or will it cause clashes earlier?

Only time will tell, but unfortunately the holiday season brings a lot of stress, and the disruption in the supply chain is likely to add to it.

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Retail experts and the retailers themselves say it will be a shopping season like no other.

Professor Nada Sanders is Emeritus Professor of Supply Chain Management at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston.

His outlook sums up the coming season.

“My bottom line is that it will be a disappointing holiday season,” she told the Sun Chronicle in comments sent via email.

Freebies will be hit and many who are hoping for certain items may well have to delay their gratification. And to add to the potential disappointment, when these products become available, they will cost more.

It will be easy to overspend, so caution is the key, Sanders said.

“I suggest donating cash and gift cards as we will continue to see a shortage of merchandise,” she said. “I also foresee a longer period of inflation and suggest consumers watch their spending.”

And why is this happening?

Sanders says this is due to several factors.

“(The) first part of the pandemic shutdowns (especially in China) created a problem with the supply of goods – the goods pipeline was therefore sparse. Then consumer demand slowed down because with the global shutdowns people weren’t buying, ”she said. “When we first opened our doors, consumer demand became huge (as expected) but supply never caught up. Some countries are still closed (like Vietnam) impacting companies like Nike, Lululemon, Restoration Hardware, etc.

The problem will not be resolved anytime soon.

“Consumer demand continues to grow, but supply is not catching up. On top of that, we have shortages of materials (chips, aluminum) and now labor issues that hamper the ability to move products, ”Sanders said. “It will take a long time to resolve. There will not be enough supply in the stores. Expect shortages and higher prices.

It’s not good for retailers or consumers – or kids who may be disappointed when a certain gift doesn’t appear as expected.

Sectors of the economy that depend on the workforce will have a particularly tough time, Sanders said.

“Hospitality and retail with high customer contact will have extreme difficulties,” she said.

The concern is so deep that Bill Rennie, vice president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said they haven’t told their members about it because the shortages and rising costs are widespread and very obvious to everyone. , creating great concern.

“I would generally say it’s not something that we’ve surveyed our members about because it’s so prevalent,” he said of supply issues. “It’s in all categories and up and down the line.”

He echoed Sanders about the impact of the pandemic on manufacturing and labor shortages and now a sudden surge in purchasing making matters worse.

He said retailers will have to come up with substitute products and consumers will have to decide if they want them.

Locally, Jack Lank, president of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce, had little optimism to offer.

He highlighted another issue that retailers face: their inability to hire help, including the usual seasonal help to serve customers.

It will seriously harm the retail industry, as if it doesn’t have enough problems already.

“I think the retail business will suffer the most simply from the lack of inventory and the inability to fill jobs,” Lank told The Sun Chronicle. “Almost all of our retailers are struggling to fill their current jobs and as we know they typically hire a lot of seasonal workers to help consumers. Retailers I spoke with told me they offer sign-up incentives and bonuses and always struggle to fill open positions.

Lank said local retailers are struggling to build inventory.

“Retailers are already struggling to get certain items to store their shelves,” he said. “Anything that comes from China or Vietnam, like clothes, toys and electronics. They told me they were concerned that they would not be able to meet consumer demand this season due to lack of stocks.

He said smaller retailers are expected to have the most difficulty, although many have ordered early in anticipation of supply chain issues.

Consumers should shop early, he said.

“Buying early will definitely help because although stocks are low, as we get closer to the holidays there will be a lot less choice on the shelves,” Lank said.

And some of the giant retailers are trying to get around supply chain issues by hiring their own carriers, which leaves smaller ones in more trouble than before.

“I was also told that some of the big guys like Amazon and Walmart have hired their own freighters to try to bypass the huge reserve in ports and have these ships delivered to less busy ports so they can have cargo for them. their shelves, ”Lank said.

Local Target and Walmart stores and their offices did not respond to requests for comment.

So in general, the holidays can be a lot less happy than usual.

As Elvis Presley once sang, it could be a “blue, blue Christmas.”

“I’m sure there will be a lot of kids disappointed because that favorite toy they want isn’t available,” Lank said.

“Electronics will be scarce and clothing from places like Vietnam is still in container ships moored off the coast of the United States with no idea when these ships will be unloaded and items prepared and sent to retailers. . “

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In the meantime, local retailers are as bullish as they can get, offering substitutes if exact products aren’t available.

And ordering early has allowed some to stock their shelves in anticipation of the rush.

Foxboro’s seasonal specialty store has a lot to offer during the Christmas season and, according to owner Elise Lombardi, is starting the season off in good shape.

Lombardi said her store was doing better than most when it came to Christmas items because she received her orders early, but dealing with supply issues hasn’t been easy.

Under normal circumstances the store is ready to go for Christmas now, but it is later this year as some of the products have just arrived now. A container was due to arrive on Friday, Lombardi said.

And when the products are gone, there is no chance for further orders.

“Once we got out, we got out,” she said.

Lombardi said the reason is that everything is made overseas.

The new order will not work as the holidays will be over by the time the products arrive.

Right now, she feels her store will be fine, but many won’t.

“It will be absolutely a problem for everyone,” Lombardi said. “We have supply chain issues at all levels in all categories. “

One of its main products is outdoor garden furniture.

Shipments of these products were up to 24 weeks late.

“We’re in good shape, but in general everything is a mess and it’s only getting worse,” Lombardi said.

Shipping costs are skyrocketing, pushing prices up on the shelves, she said.

Usually the cost per container is $ 4,500 to $ 5,000, but that price has tripled and in some cases quintupled and she now pays up to $ 16,000 to $ 25,000 per container.

“The higher transport costs are crazy and everything is coming in late,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll see $ 4,500 again.”

And in Plainville at AnImplyly Story, a bookstore, cafe, and gift shop, the situation is not much different.

General manager Deb Sundin said her store was also affected.

She said publishers were delaying the release of the books, which affected events in the store, including book signings, which attracted customers.

“We’ve had to postpone some author events and expect to see more delays as the season progresses,” Sundin said. “We’ll have books on the shelves, but we might not have the exact book someone wants. “

She and her staff will be able to recommend substitutions and they have a good stock of gift cards for future use, Sundin said.

The store’s gift shop is well stocked at the moment with a wide variety of items including hats, scarves, socks, home decor items, play puzzles and holiday specific gifts, a. she declared.

But the key is to shop early.

“October is the new December,” she said.

Sundin praised the community for their support and this is what will be needed for every store with patience.

“We would like to thank all of our customers,” she said. “We get a lot of support from the community.

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