10 tips for gifts that bypass supply chain problems

Release the hounds! This weekend marks the start of the big Christmas hunt, with shoppers running away in search of the perfect gifts only to be outwitted by kinks in the supply chain.

Bah, humbug.

“COVID disruptions, labor shortages, and the pent-up demand of consumers stuck at home and now wanting to spend have conspired,” said Robert Handfield, professor of operations and supply chain management at North Carolina State University. “Vacation buyers are feeling the pressure of a global supply chain under duress.”

Then he tries to explain to people like me the problem of connecting the bone of the foot to the ankle. Ships with supplies, parts and products are stuck in port. Suppliers and manufacturers of parts and products require materials and labor, which are also scarce. Both suppliers and manufacturers need trucks. And trucks need drivers. Shelves and warehouses are empty, and Americans need gifts in time for the holidays.

Fa-la-la-la-la. All of this leaves you with just one more eggnog to throw you back.

Even if the product is available, buyers will face higher prices and shipping delays. And don’t even think about waiting for a screaming deal. Get it while you can.

Much of the problem starts at the Port of Los Angeles, said Handfield, which is the largest entry point for goods in the country. “The volume of the Port of LA at this point was up 30 to 40 percent from last year. The ships are so secured that they cannot unload their freight, which mostly comes from China. “

The problem is so bad that, foreseeing that the Christmas items would not arrive on time, Walmart has asked some ships to turn around and return, he added.

This doesn’t bode well for someone looking to get a PlayStation 5.

“What should a buyer do?” I ask.

Aside from the obvious – buy and ship early – avoid the mentality of getting that certain something for a certain person. Be open to other, perhaps more thoughtful, options. “It is better to find a local, handmade gift than to buy the latest whizbang gadget made in a Chinese factory,” said Handfield.

Despite the bottlenecks that could certainly lead to a frustrating, busy Christmas season, here are 10 ways experts say we can overcome supply chain problems.

1. Buy locally. Not only does this support the local economy, but it is also the best way to avoid delivery delays and have your gifts safely in hand.

2. Buy Americans. Companies that manufacture and source their products domestically have far better control over their supply chain than companies that rely on imports. For example, Red Land Cotton, a grower and manufacturer of cotton products, doesn’t care about port-related slowdowns, said Anna Brakefield, who owns the business with her farmer father. The company grows the cotton on the family farm in Alabama and then makes products in nearby Georgia and South Carolina. Many of their competitors import cotton from India and China. It’s a difference that Red Land brags about in its advertising. “You have a legitimate point of view,” said Handfield. “Moving production back to the United States will not only help avoid supply chain problems, but it will also be good for the country. They may pay a little more, but we should support American companies and workers. “

3. Buy used. As more Americans recognize sustainability and a reuse economy, more people are comfortable buying used gifts online from resellers, said Amanda Morse, co-owner of List Perfectly, an e-commerce tool that helps sellers find items on multiple reseller websites to publish. According to a recent survey by Zogby Analytics, 38 percent of adults in the United States planned to buy used items as gifts. By buying secondhand, gift givers can avoid supply chain bottlenecks because they know the product exists. Now all you have to do is take care of shipping. “When buying second hand, pay close attention to the seller’s shipping guidelines,” said Morse, “or you may be buying from someone on vacation.”

4. Buy online and pick up in store. For the last minute shopper who needs the gift quickly, ordering online from a major retailer and then picking up the item at the nearest store can save valuable shipping days. the fulfillment tracks for these stores are well greased.

5. Avoid anything that is lagging behind or that comes from another country. “Just forget about it,” said Handfield. “Today it’s not so much about getting from the distribution center to your home; the bottleneck is the port. If it’s in the US and in stock, you’re good. But if it is behind and the lead time given is three to six weeks, watch out. “

6. Avoid anything with a chip. “Semiconductor chips are a huge problem and the backlog will persist year-round,” said Handfield. He also advises avoiding electronics in general.

7. Pay for Premium Shipping. Just do it.

8. Send directly. If you’re ordering gifts for distant friends and relatives instead of having an item shipped to you just so you can wrap it up and ship it on, you’re shipping it direct. Pay a small surcharge for gift wrapping if the seller offers or hire someone from the recipient’s household to wrap the gift for you.

9. Enter subscriptions. Consider making a consumable gift that will give again and again. Here are some ideas for monthly subscriptions: fresh flowers (BloomsyBox from $ 45 a month), various beauty products (Ipsy sells glam bags for $ 13 a month), gourmet meals (Blue Apron or Hello Fresh), monthly Massages (Massage Envy or Hand & Stone) or, for the intellectually curious, a subscription to the Master Class, which offers online courses from A-List talent for $ 180 per year. These gifts won’t clutter your closets and won’t be reordered.

10. Let gift cards do the giving. And you can often send e-gift cards and skip sending them.

“Perhaps,” I say to Handfield as we conclude our gift talk, “many, if they follow these tips, will be able to enjoy their most meaningful Christmas yet.”

“I agree,” he said. “I am in favor of fewer gifts from China and more from the heart.”

Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Loss”, “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One” and “What to Do With Everything You Own.” it to leave the legacy you want. ”You can reach her at marnijameson.com.

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