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Holiday shopping 2021: Why you should start shopping now

Plus, the virtual presents that will take the hassle out of holiday gifting.
Illustration of a Woman shopping on her tablet with sold out and shipping delay signs
TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

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We're still in September, so it feels like it's a little too early to be talking about holiday shopping. After all, many of us have barely even started planning our Halloween costumes or Thanksgiving menus. But if there was ever a time to think ahead, this is it. Because if you wait too long to buy that hot gift everyone's been talking about, you could be out of luck.

Experts are saying that a range of supply chain issues could likely affect the price and availability of popular products, making it harder to get presents on time. Below, we're breaking down everything you need to know about the predicted issues this holiday season. Plus, we rounded up a handful of gift options that are sure to make it by the big day.

How will supply chain issues affect your holiday shopping?

The events of the last two years have taken a major toll on the retail industry. And a number of the resulting issues, like worker shortages and transportation delays, could affect how quickly you'll be able to get a range of products, from toilet paper to tech.

Just last week, a record number of cargo ships were backed up along the Southern California coast. And ports on the East Coast have been experiencing similar traffic jams.

"When the world's manufacturers came back online, there was a surge in products that were ordered and just a finite amount of capacity of ships, of trucks, of warehouses, and the infrastructure that exists can't handle the volume," Craig Fuller, CEO of FreightWaves told NBC News correspondent Tom Costello on TODAY.

In a survey of retail executives conducted by the professional services firm KPMG, 82 percent of those polled said that they were somewhat or very concerned about inventory shortages this year.

And that's why some retailers are taking measures to try and speed up the process. Target, for example, has chartered its own container ship, which will allow the company to have control over the shipping process and hopefully avoid delays caused by additional stops and backed-up ports. Costco, Walmart and Home Depot have also done the same.

Even with all of the supply chain issues, the demand isn't slowing down and sales are expected to grow by 7 percent this year, according to the KPMG survey. Also on the rise? Prices. Salesforce is predicting that retailers will face an extra $223 billion in costs this season. And while companies will bear most of the burden of the increased costs, customers can also expect some higher prices.

And when it comes to items that will be hardest to find, experts expect that hot toys will be some of the first gifts to sell out. "All of the big brands that most people know, they've been able to get stuff into the country," The Toy Guy Chris Byrne said on the show. "The question is, how long is it going to last once it gets on the shelves? So again, if you see it, buy it."

That's why, the sooner you can start shopping, the better. But if you don't want to deal with all the potential issues and delays, we get it. Instead of buying them a physical gift that might not make it in time, consider getting them an e-gift card that they can use once the items on their wishlist come back in stock or a fun experience that they'll remember for years to come.

Gifts that will arrive on time

Amazon gift card

If you don't know what to get someone, an Amazon gift card is the perfect option. The retail site has everything, so whether they're a techie or an avid reader, they're bound to find something that they love. They can also use the gift card to book a virtual experience from Amazon Explore.

MasterClass subscription

Whether they want to try their hand at baking bread or start a new creative pursuit, they can learn how from the best of the best on MasterClass. When you gift them an annual membership, which starts at $180, they'll have access to virtual lessons hosted by experts across multiple fields, such as Simone Biles, Tan France, Alicia Keys, Samuel L. Jackson and more.

Target gift card

Target's gift cards can be emailed or texted to recipients. And you can send it right away or schedule it to be sent on a specific day within the next three months, so you can buy it now and it'll show up in their inbox on Christmas morning.

Airbnb gift card

With an Airbnb gift card, travel lovers can finally take that much-needed escape that they've been talking about. For those who aren't ready to head on a vacation quite yet, they can book one of the company's online experiences, which range from cooking classes to virtual concerts.

Sephora gift card

Instead of stressing over which shade of nail polish or lip gloss to get your beauty-obsessed BFF, simply grab a Sephora gift card instead and let them pick it out themself.

Best Buy gift card

From home improvement to hot tech, you can find it all at Best Buy. And the retailer has both physical and e-gift cards that you can send to all your loved ones.

Goldbelly

Is your friend always talking about the coolest new restaurants and food trends? Get them a Goldbelly gift card so they can order dishes from some of the hottest spots in the country, no matter where they are. Gift card options range from $25 to $200, although you can select a custom amount as well. The site also has live cooking classes and monthly subscriptions that will make the perfect gift.

Cameo

Make your loved one's day by sending them a custom video message from their favorite celebrity. From athletes to actors and singers, there are thousands of celebrities to choose from. The price of the videos varies, depending on the star.

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