Tips for starting your holiday shopping early
In history books, we will all be able to plot each point of the pandemic against the essential item that was missing. At first, we struggled to keep our homes stocked with bread flour, personal protective equipment and toilet paper. Over time, dumbbells, bikes, graphics cards, and children’s play couches were overpriced or simply impossible to find.
As we enter our second pandemic holiday season, delays and stockouts have unfortunately persisted throughout the supply chain. Faced with a shortage of computer chips, Toyota has cut production. Construction companies cannot obtain raw materials or labor. There are no sea containers. In May I ordered a new bedside table for my daughter’s bedroom, it won’t arrive until December.
Thanks to generous shipping policies from companies like Amazon, we’ve all gotten used to having everything we need instantly on our doorstep. This is no longer the case. At WIRED, we will soon start producing our annual gift guides. But as a personal favor to you, our readers, I urge you to start your holiday shoppingâ¦ now.
Which industries have the worst?
Almost all industries have been affected by shortages in the supply chain. But a few of them will affect our holiday shopping the most.
Computer chips were in short supply throughout the pandemic. As we reported earlier this year, almost every device you own is made up of specialized microprocessors that require specialized factories to manufacture them. The companies that make these microprocessors (disclosure: my partner works for one of them) can’t turn on; their workflows take months, if not years, to pivot and increase production.
Almost every major company has assured us that their respective supply chain issues are under control in time for the holidays. However, this is belied by the fact that key products have already come under pressure. For example, the Apple Watch almost always launches alongside the new iPhone, but this year it will release later this fall due to production delays. The Google Pixel 5A is only available in one color and size and is only sold in the United States and Japan. If you have a particular gadget at heart, this probably isn’t the best year to wait for Black Friday discounts.
The Covid-19 pandemic also pushed us inside to read books. For those of us who haven’t yet converted to Kindle, paper books will also be hard to come by. Paper makers have scaled back operations due to the spread of the Delta variant, and a nationwide paper shortage is delaying production of everything from envelopes to paper bags. If you want to send Christmas cards or gift a copy of the latest Becky Chambers, you shouldn’t wait.
The shortage of shipping containers has hit manufacturing industries abroad particularly hard, meaning that plastic toys like LOL Surprise dolls are obstructed in overseas ports. The White House recently appointed a port envoy to break down logistical barriers in international shipping, but that is unlikely to have much effect before the holiday season.
Our top holiday shopping tips
In the Gear team, we are more or less professional buyers. As we get our blanket ready for the holiday season, I have some tips to share that might be helpful.
Start early. It starts with reading this article and making a list. As much as we love Black Friday, now is not the year to wait for big discounts if you’re serious about giving away a Dyson vacuum or a new iPhone. It might not arrive until the holidays, or it might be out of stock for the foreseeable future.