Somewhere in China, there’s a Baby Yoda® facing a perilous journey from a factory to your child’s arms. But instead of The Mandalorian’s® bounty hunters, Imperial storm troopers and deadly droids, Baby Yoda must survive Supply Chain 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the flow of goods not only from overseas factories to the U.S., but from U.S. ports to warehouses and to retailers across the country. And, that’s going to create empty shelves, delays for many popular items and higher prices.
But you can use strategies to increase your odds of getting the gifts you want for family and friends.
What’s Causing the Problems?
Take Baby Yoda dolls as an example. The most popular version is expected to be “Star Wars Galactic Snackin’ Grogu 9.25-Inch-Tall Animatronic Toy with Over 40 Sound and Motion Combinations and Interactive Accessories.” Right now, you can order the doll on Amazon.com®, but the fine print has hints of Baby Yoda’s perilous journey before it. Amazon® says you can pre-order, and it will be available Dec. 1, and you’ll get the lowest price, currently listed as $79.99 (plus shipping). Reading between the (supply) lines, this means you may or may not bag a Baby Yoda in time, and it may be more expensive.
It will take so many weeks because the pandemic had disrupted shipping. Within China, goods are slow to get to docks, and then there’s a scarcity of shipping containers to hold the goods. Shipping is backed up, and some ports have only recently been reopened. And, once those container ships make it across the Pacific, U.S. ports are backed up, and trucking has slowed due to labor shortages.
And, because of higher costs all along the way (rent for shipping containers is at a premium now, for example), the bounty on a Baby Yoda doll may rise before you can actually buy one. Many toys for the holidays will face similar scarcity issues and higher costs, given 75% of toys bought in the U.S. are made in China, and most of the rest are also shipped from overseas and face similar supply line challenges. Other goods that are popular for gifts, including gaming systems, electronics and kitchen appliances, also may be scarce and more expensive.
So What Can You Do?
- Shop early. That means physically purchasing and storing (hiding) gifts until the holidays. Don’t count on something you saw at Walmart® last week being there 2 months from now, or even next week.
- Order early. When shopping online, the earlier you place your order, the higher you’ll be in the queue when goods finally arrive. Just because Amazon says it will be available Dec. 1 doesn’t mean there won’t be backlogs if the demand exceeds the supply.
- Make a budget. Given the scarcity of goods, prices will rise on many. You may not want to pay a premium to have everything you want for the holidays. But as kinks are worked out of supply lines, and demand falls post-holidays, prices will fall as well and you can get everything you want, within your budget, if you wait until next year.
- Buy services. Unlike goods, services aren't vulnerable to the same supply line issues. You can send months of a music or streaming service subscription, as examples. Some of my favorite gifts are books via Kindle® or Audible®.
- Buy domestic. It can be tough finding toys that are still marked with a Made in America logo, but they’re out there. You just might have to dig a little deeper.
With COVID-19 still affecting international shipping and supply chains, this year’s holiday shopping season will be a tough—one especially for those seeking popular toys. But with planning and a little luck, you can game the Supply Chain.
Author Bio: Robert Frick is a corporate economist for Navy Federal Credit Union. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertFrickNFCU.