By Lauren Debter
Veena Marcano usually starts the festive shopping early, but this year she has outdone herself, starting shopping in July. Based on what she had heard about delivery delays, product shortages and price increases, she thought it would be best to start buying her gifts as soon as possible. So she went back to stores like Amazon, TJMaxx and Burlington, stockpiling presents for her two children, her nieces and nephews, and long before Black Friday arrived, she had everything she needed – and more.
“I have more gifts than kids to give,” says Marcano, 28, who lives in Pennsylvania and says she will return some, mostly books and a craft set.
And she is not the only one. For many Americans, the festive shopping “race” began long before Thanksgiving this year, with 45% starting shopping in early October, according to McKinsey. and “reserves”, ordering more gifts than needed in case any of them are delayed in delivery or canceled, according to Oracle.
“I think to some extent consumers are stockpiling. They are even buying things that may not be the perfect gifts,” said Anisa Kumar, head of customer service at Narvar, a retail technology company. the others after the holidays “, he explains.
The festive shopping panic is evident. Consumers have been hearing for months about supply chain problems worldwide, which result in shortages and delays in all kinds of products, from cars and home appliances to toys and clothing. Problems that they themselves face during their festive shopping.
In October alone, 2 billion searches came up with the same disappointing answer: “out of stock.” / 140 websites. Half of consumers also estimate that their orders will be delayed this year, according to Narvar.
Kevin Sims and his wife began shopping for the holidays in early October, after Halloween costumes they had ordered through Amazon several weeks earlier were delayed, forcing them to consider alternative ideas. They had planned to dress up as a family – themselves, their twins and the family dog - characters of the Super Mario series, so the “loss” of even one order was in danger of shaking their whole design in the air. last minute, however the whole adventure was “didactic”.
“It made us think that if we wanted to have a good Christmas, we had to place our orders right away,” said Sims, a 39-year-old communications technician at Hitachi Vantara in San Jose, California. . “Some may be delayed,” he notes.
“Battles” … for a gift
Consumers are really struggling to get the products they want, as their choices are significantly fewer this year, with Victoria’s Secret late in receiving nearly 90 million of the 200 million items it had planned for the holiday season, with 25% of them related to pajamas Toymaker Basic Fun decided to receive 160,000 toys from China after the holidays, as their timely shipment was very costly for it.Williams Sonoma, Inc. Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and West Elm continue to have “much less stock” of products available than they would like, CEO Laura Alber told analysts as she briefed analysts on the company’s financial figures last week. Seasonal items are disappearing from the shelves “in the blink of an eye”, he said characteristically.
“As it is widely known that there can be problems with supply chains, we see a lot of consumers wanting to buy our products as soon as they arrive in stores,” said Bill Bortz, executive vice president of goods at Lowe’s. inform analysts.
Fitness company CityRow saw orders for the $ 2,100 “smart” rowing machine it sells launch in October, with dozens of customers even contacting the company itself to confirm they would receive their order in time before Christmas .
But retailers themselves are urging consumers to start shopping on time, with Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Lowe’s offering “Black Friday” deals since October, and Walmart launching similar offers in early November. Apple has posted on its website a “warning” to consumers that they must make their purchases in time if they want to ensure the best choice of products.
These moves had a catalytic effect on the market, with the delivery company UPS estimating, based on the data, that half of the festive purchases may have already been completed by the Monday following Thanksgiving.
Their offers, however, are less tempting this year, as Black Friday discounts average 5% to 25% across all product categories, up from the usual 10% to 30%, says Adobe. This practically means that if inflation is taken into account, consumers will pay an average of 9% more money this Cyber Week compared to last year, says Adobe.
“Black Friday’s motto this year is ‘we have it’ – not ‘we have it cheaper’ as it used to be,” said Jay Foreman, chief executive of gaming company Basic Fun, which supplies Care Bears, Tonka Trucks and Lincoln Logs Walmart, Target and Amazon chains.
In the meantime, the “facilitation” policy pursued by many pandemic companies may exacerbate product shortages, for example, the Target retail chain allows consumers to buy the products they want online – even Black Friday special offers – and schedule their receipt from its physical stores within three days.These products, however, return to the shelf and are available for purchase again if not received within three days, with the company reimbursing the full amount market to the consumer.
The challenge of returns
At the same time, companies are pursuing a more “helpful” return policy, with retail companies such as Amazon, Best Buy and Macy’s giving consumers the opportunity to return gifts for an additional month, in other words, allowing products that have been returned. Before the pandemic, the “festive” return period only applied to products purchased in November or December.
This facilitation of return policy is, of course, expected to cause a “tsunami” of holiday returns, a phenomenon that is already extremely intense, to such an extent that January 2 is referred to as National Returns Day. worth $ 428 billion, an amount significantly higher compared to the $ 369 billion worth of products returned in 2019.
“Retailers will see the boomerang of supermarkets return to them after the holidays in the form of returns,” said Mike Webster, general manager of Oracle Retail.
It usually takes three weeks to process a returned product and put it back on the shelf, but sometimes, after the holidays, retailers “struggle” with returns until April or May. “The stock stays off the shelf,” says Narvar Kumar, especially when it comes to seasonal items. Half of the “returns” actually never return to the shelf, and are either liquidated, destroyed, or discarded, according to Forrester Research.
Some consumers all “refuse” to succumb to the hysteria of festive shopping. Supply Chain Problems is not something that should stress her friends and family, it certainly will not “hurt” anyone for it.
“I was very anxious about it,” said Bechko, who works at a museum in Los Angeles.