Retail Practices

Are we facing a Christmas gift crisis?

By : Gassendie Jocelyn

Once again this year, holiday shopping is bound to be a daunting task. Between supply issues and the existing labour shortage, consumers need to brace themselves for a lack in retail offering. Given the current context, what’s the best way to go about shopping for the holidays?

Vulnerable supply chains

Since the start of the pandemic, a multitude of supply issues have caused shortages in many sectors. Last year, the majority of these supply issues were a result of production delays in Chinese warehouses. This year, the issues are mainly port-related; ports around the world are increasingly congested due to labour shortages and confinement orders related to COVID-19.

Consumerism on the rise

At the same time, consumerism is on the rise, especially when it comes to sports equipment, kitchen accessories, décor items, electronic devices, etc. And according to a holiday shopping survey conducted by Deloitte Canada, this trend shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, global expenses are expected to go up 31% in 2021 versus 2020.

According to Francis Mailly, Director of Government Relations for the Quebec division of the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), it’s the exact kind of situation that could result in supply shortages leading up to the holidays.

“This pressure on our supply chains will have an impact not only on quantity, but also on what items are available this holiday season.” – Francis Mailly

Experts predict that these upheavals to our supply chains should taper off in the coming months. Until then, informed consumers will need to be proactive . . . and patient!

5 tips for happy holiday shopping 

Even though many retailers have increased their orders in the past few weeks, don’t expect store shelves to be brimming with options this year. Experts suggest you plan your holiday shopping ahead of time to avoid running out of options.

1. Be proactive!

“I can’t stress it enough: start your shopping early!” says Mailly. “By shopping early, you’ll avoid long lineups and shipping delays caused by the current labour shortage.” The organization Détail Québec evaluated a total of 22,000 vacant job positions in the retail industry. This lack of skilled workers has led many Quebec shopping centres to push their extended holiday schedules to December 13—a whole two weeks later than what consumers are accustomed to.

2. Be flexible

According to Mailly, consumers also need to be flexible. Some toys might be out of stock due to overseas shipping delays, especially when it comes to shipments coming from Asia. “Before heading to the store, make sure you have a plan B, maybe even a plan C,” adds the expert.

3. Opt for in-store pickup

Since the start of the pandemic, online shopping has exploded. However, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, pay particular attention to delivery dates. “Even if the item you’re looking for is in stock, there’s no guarantee it’ll be delivered in time for the holidays,” explains Mailly. To maximize your chances of receiving your item on time, check to see if the store in question offers in-store pickup.

4. Buy local

Another way to counter supply shortages this holiday season is to buy local. You’ll have a better chance at finding what you’re looking for, seeing as local businesses have been less affected by supply chain challenges.

5. Don’t wait around for discounts

One thing’s for sure: discounts will be rare this year, mainly due to stores’ limited inventories. And while you might be lucky enough to take advantage of special offers come Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Mailly advises consumers not to wait around for incredible deals . . . especially if you have your eye on a particular item. If you do see things on special, grab them while you can!