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We're officially in November, which means that the holiday shopping season is kicking into high gear. While it may still seem early to some (after all, many of us have barely even started planning our Thanksgiving menus), 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 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.
"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. And many of these top companies have also kicked off early sales, helping people get a head start on shopping.
Even so, many customers are already feeling the effects of these supply chain issues. According to a survey from Morning Consult, nearly half of the early shoppers who responded said that they've already encountered issues with an item being back-ordered, delayed or out of stock.
But 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.
Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s 2021 Gift Guide to find the perfect present for everyone on your list!
Gifts that will arrive on time
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.
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.
For the fitness buff who is always trying out new workouts, give them a ClassPass gift card. Select their city and the amount you want to put on the card and they'll be able to use it to try out classes at some of the most popular studios and gyms in their area.
Whether they're more of a non-fiction or fantasy person, book lovers can find an exciting new read in Bookshop's impressive selection. Plus, they'll be supporting local book shops while they do it.
While they can use this e-gift card to stock up on cookware at Sur La Table, they can also put it towards one of the brand's virtual cooking classes. Starting at just $29, these classes cover a range of topics, from learning how to make classic cocktails to baking sweet treats. Classes are taught by expert chefs and each one lasts between 90 to 120 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Still looking for the perfect gift? Be sure to check out Shop TODAY’s 2021 Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:
- 50 best Advent calendars of 2021: Wine, food, beauty and more
- 29 gifts for 21-year-olds that are better than just booze
- 64 helpful tech items that will make the perfect gift
- 27 unique gifts for couples they’ll both love
- 39 best travel gifts in 2021: Gift ideas for travel lovers