Before the COVID-19, few people gave much thought to the global supply chain. It's a different story now that a tangle of problems with the international supply and shipping of goods has led to shortages and higher prices for everything from pickles and couches to cars and clothing.
And yes, it's looking very much like supply chain slowdowns will cause shortages that affect your holidays.
Many shoppers seem to know they're in for a difficult season ahead. According to a new survey from Oracle, 27% of those polled are worried the products they want for the holidays won't be available, and 28% are anxious that prices will be higher due to shortages.
Here are some of the classic holiday goods you may have trouble finding in stock this year — at least at the price you're accustomed to paying.
This year, hot holiday toys are likely to be more expensive and harder to find in stock — or both. Many popular toys are manufactured overseas, and gridlock in the global supply chain has meant that fewer of these prized holiday gifts are making it to U.S. stores.
Toy company executives say that products from brands like Fisher Price and L.O.L. Surprise! are stuck in factories awaiting shipping, or they're at ports sitting on shipping containers, waiting to be unloaded. Meanwhile, toy giants Hasbro, Mattel and LEGO said this past summer they'll be raising prices due to higher shipping costs.
As we've previously reported, shoppers should expect to pay extra for holiday gifts this year — consumer prices will perhaps be 20% higher compared to last year, Salesforce has forecast. Back in late summer, we also reported that buying holiday gifts extra early this year could be a smart move.
Don't freak out: You will be able to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. But be prepared for the possibility that it may not be the size or kind of turkey you want, and you'll be paying more for the turkey you do get.
Experts say that a shortage of labor in poultry processing plants, combined with recent changes in production, means certain turkeys will cost more and will be harder to find in stores. Specifically, turkeys in the 14- to 16-pound range — the most popular sizes around Thanksgiving — will be scarcest.
Consumers have had to cope with higher meat costs for well over a year, and we're not just talking turkey.
“Throughout the pandemic, the cost of production for meat processing has been significantly higher. This shouldn’t be a surprise by now," James Mitchell, extension agricultural economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said in August. “We have seen similar issues with boneless hams and value-added pork. Some proactive planning from our holiday cooks is probably warranted.”
Phil Lempert, known as the "Supermarket Guru," told Consumer Reports that shoppers should anticipate prices for Thanksgiving turkeys (and all meat products) to be 10% to 15% more expensive. Smaller fresh turkeys weighing 16 pounds or less will be more likely to sell out or see particularly high price hikes.
The American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) is obviously in the business of promoting Christmas tree sales, so take this for what it's worth: The group is advising shoppers to buy early this year because there could be shortages of both artificial and live Christmas trees.
"In 2021, we’re seeing a variety of trends influencing artificial and live Christmas tree supply across the country, and are encouraging consumers to find their tree early this year to avoid shortage impacts,” ACTA executive director Jami Warner said in a press release.
Like so many other products, artificial Christmas trees could be harder to find in stores due to the global supply chain traffic jam. As for live trees, the ACTA says that fires in the Pacific Northwest have destroyed the crops of many would-be Christmas tree sellers.
Wine and liquor
For better or worse, booze is as traditional a feature in homes around the holidays as turkey on Thanksgiving and gifts under the Christmas tree. And this year, shortages of certain kinds of wine and liquor could affect how festive the atmosphere is at your family gatherings.
Liquor shortages have been reported this year in multiple states — including Vermont, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina, according to NPR. To cope with the shortages, Pennsylvania authorities recently enacted a two-bottle limit on some liquor products, including Hennessey cognac, Don Julio tequila and Buffalo Trace bourbon.
There are several reasons why some liquor is in such short supply it must be rationed, and virtually all of them can be traced to the pandemic and its fallout. The list includes still-heightened demand from consumers, a shortage of truck drivers delivering goods nationally, difficulties among manufacturers in finding the glass needed for liquor and wine bottles, and steep increases in shipping costs overall.
There's also a shortage of paper needed to make wine labels, "and with no labels on the bottles, there is no wine," the Napa Valley Register explained last month.
The shortages are not going to affect every alcohol brand, but experts say some beverages will be hard to come by through the holidays and into 2022. The prices and selection at restaurants will be impacted too. For consumers, there's little to do outside of being flexible with what you drink — and being open to spending more than you'd like.