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Supply chain shortages and your holiday shopping season

An In Focus look at what to expect as you compile your gift list
California Overloaded Ports
Posted at 4:57 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 16:57:17-04

BALTIMORE — Santa's keeping a close eye on the disrupted supply chain, and experts say that you should too.

"The pandemic has really affected the global supply chain, which has caused sorted shortages across a wide variety of products," says Anna Kocharian, shopping editor for Consumer Reports.

Pictures showing backed up containers at shipping ports, illustrate the problem.

But, what's causing it?

University of Maryland Professor Martin Dresner, the Chair of the Logistics, Business and Public Policy Department at the Robert H. Smith School of Business tells WMAR-2 News that the changes in our spending behavior is a big part of the cause.

"We've had a decrease in supply and increase in demand," he says. "And that's caused the bottlenecks in our supply chain."

With manufacturing plants shutting down and/or implementing health and safety protocols, there's been a decrease in production.

And with more people staying home and ordering online, versus going out to restaurants, stores and entertainment venues, demand has increased.

And while we've still not distributed our Halloween trick-or-treats, its time to start thinking about Christmas.

Part of the issue comes from it already being a high-demand time of year.

NerdWallet-Millennial Money-Holiday Spending
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2020 file photo, a shopper walks by a holiday window display in New York. Factoring holiday expenses into your budget all year long is effective for avoiding debt, but it’s not always feasible with a limited budget or unforeseen expenses. When that’s the case, lacking a strategy for holiday spending can leave you vulnerable to debt and overspending that delays financial goals. But it’s not too late to come up with a last-minute plan to save money for the holidays. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

"Every holiday season, there are products that are in high demand and ones that are are going to be stocked out," says Dresner. "So I mean, I think the demand is always variable."

Anticipating what's going to be in short supply is part of the game - and this year, Consumer Reports has some ideas.

"As we gear up for the holiday season, we're seeing shortages for items like newer game, game consoles, like the PS5, the Xbox series S, Nintendo Switch, anything really that comes with a chip computer chip is going to be in demand this year," says Kocharain. "Toys are another big category. Plastic, generally across the board is going to be in shortage this year, and so toys that are made from plastics are going to be shipped from elsewhere. Those are going to be in high demand. So definitely pre-order those this year."

Another gift idea that may be in shorter supply - travel.

"I think there could be pent up travel demand," says Dresner. "And so, next year we can have a shortage of travel space you know, the airlines... at current prices there may be insufficient seats to accommodate travel demand."