It’s that magical time of year when we put on cozy sweaters, sip hot pumpkin drinks, and think too much about buying more stuff. This holiday season, thanks to inflation and the ripple effects of the ongoing pandemic that have disrupted the global supply chain, we are thinking about shopping even more than usual.
There is no reason to panic about buying, but everyone can buy a little smarter. If, like most Americans, you’re thinking of shopping online, we’ve got you covered. Shopping online can save you on gas and avoid crowded stores, while also making it easier to compare fluctuating prices and see who has what in stock.
Here are some tips to make sure you get your loved ones what they want, or at least a really nice picture of it.
– Buy now to allow more time for deliveries
“Buy now, buy online,” says Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School.
The deadlock stretches from factories abroad to container ships, railroads, trucks and even store shelves. The end result is that products of all kinds will have unpredictable arrival times this year. To play it safe, order what you need now instead of waiting for sales. Most stores announce their big holiday discounts early, and some post prices in advance. Plus, some are expected to offer fewer discounts this year, so there’s even less reason to delay.
Cohen says department stores go out of their way to make sure online inventory matches what they can actually ship, removing items they don’t think they can get out on time. But check your tracking numbers after you order to spot changes in shipping times and avoid stores you don’t trust.
If you’ve waited too long and are worried about shipping, you can use a service like Shipt to have someone find what’s in a store for you the same day.
– Find gifts in stock
There’s a lot of guesswork going on about the exact impact of supply chain delays on specific holiday gifts. The reality is that some doodads can be hard to find, while other items will be plentiful. Small stores can struggle with personnel and products, but larger chains can try to get out of the problem by doing things like chartering their own container ships.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore small stores – just do a little extra research. If you’re trying to buy locally, email or call to check their inventory and ask if they already have the product on hand. Some stores sell products they expect to have on hand soon, but you’ll want to know what risk you’re taking.
If you’re on to something specific and can’t find it in a smaller location, check the big guys. Walmart, Target, and Amazon are using their market power to ensure product delivery first, including leasing their own container ships. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Because the prices go up, spend some time comparing prices. Try a tool that examines inventory on sites like Google Shopping or a browser plug-in like Honey, Capital One Shopping, or Rakuten to find lower prices.
– Do not buy from brands that you cannot confirm exist
Just because it looks like a product you want and is competitively priced doesn’t mean you have to click buy. Shady third-party sellers are commonplace on Amazon, Walmart, Google, and in social media ads. Businesses often buy from cheap overseas wholesalers like AliExpress, apply a fake brand name, and create a quick webpage using a service like Shopify. The quality can range from “good” to “forgetting to add buttonholes”, but the biggest risk in ordering from one of these sellers now is the shipping times.
Double check what the third party seller or social media brand is before you buy anything. Another option is to only buy from stores that you know don’t depend on third-party sellers. If you have any doubts, do a reverse Google image search for the product or search its website and find the store address on a map.
Check out this guide for more ways to distinguish real brands from fakes.
– Buy local without going out
Big box retailers have the upper hand this year, and that’s even more of a reason to try and support your local businesses. If you can’t make it in person, you can do some local shopping online. Start with your chamber of commerce and see if it has a directory of stores nearby, or follow your favorites on social media to find out what’s in stock. If you use Google Shopping, you can select nearby and smaller stores available, but a lot of options are missing. There are tools like Locally.com and Live Buy Local to search in certain regions as well. If you want to support local bookstores while shopping online, try Bookshop.org.
– Just give them a picture of the thing… really
It is true that opening an envelope to find a homemade image or drawing of a Play Station does not have the same effect. But if you can’t find something specific, or the prices have all gone up, consider stopping and buying it in a few weeks or a month when the shelves are full and the prices are dropping.
There is no shortage of the most in-demand products – they’re just on hold and slowly making their way to their destination, Cohen explains. This means that there could be a glut of merchandise after December and throughout 2022. While businesses have always had big sales in the New Year, it could be even more extreme this time around as ‘They are trying to move products they have already paid for.
“Goods that arrive very late are going to have to be sold, and that’s when that conservative discount turns into a heroic discount,” Cohen explains.
Replacing gifts with pictures is not recommended for young children, unless you have a good plan as to why Santa’s Workshop is magical, but also the vagaries of a chain slowdown. global supply.