Why holiday shopping looks a little different for the Lane community this year

A message about a shipping delay received by a shopper.

A message about a shipping delay received by a shopper.

By Niamh Dillon, Reporter

An always hectic time of year is being made extra challenging this year due to hold-ups in shipping and massive shortages, making finding the perfect gift–an already demanding part of the holiday season — even more difficult.  

“Out of Stock,” “Delayed Shipping Times,” “Shortages” — these are all phrases shoppers are tired of seeing this year, especially as the holidays are creeping up. With massive disruptions to the supply chain and major delays, holiday shopping is looking much different than usual. 

The New York Times traces the reason for this crisis to the closure of factories and a sharp decrease in production that occurred as a result of COVID-19 in 2020. Now what is most problematic is congested shipping ports. 

Large retailers are dealing with increased demand at a time when products are extremely difficult to get. Because of this, they have to pay stiff shipping costs in order to get products in stores in time for customers and the holidays. The cost of shipping and transport places some risk on the profitability of these retailers. 

According to a report from Hellenic Shipping News, the number of shipping container orders compared to 2019 has increased by 570%. This dramatic increase, along with the decreased capacity on the water, are responsible for port congestion. 

Unfortunately for holiday shoppers who tend to procrastinate and order items last minute, waiting may not be an option this year. 

The Producer Price Index for final demand increased by 7.3 percent compared to June 2020. Due to such an increased demand from consumers, retailers are finding it hard to keep up, as they are still rebounding from such a devastating shopping year in 2020. 

Not only will it take extra long for holiday gifts to come this year, shoppers will be lucky if they can even get a hold of their gift with the mass shortage of goods. 

These factors are just some of the challenges shoppers are experiencing this holiday season, along with the increasing prices of shipping and the products themselves. With the looming fear that gifts won’t arrive on time, shopping in-store may be the more dependable option this year.

Trudy Robinson-Foley, owner of “Kickin”(2033 W Roscoe St), a maternity boutique, and “A Pied”(2033 W Roscoe St), a shoe store, both small businesses located just a few blocks away from Lane, said she’s in a precarious place with holiday shopping this year. 

“I think we won’t know if we see benefit from [the shipping delays] or not until that week or two before Christmas when people are nervous they won’t be able to get things on time,” said Robinson-Foley. 

Another challenge to stores this year is that they are just now receiving items that were scheduled to arrive weeks or even months ago. Robinson- Foley said it is important to the stores that customers know they are stocked in-store, and there is not a shortage of these goods but just a delay.

To encourage in-person shopping, one thing small businesses have done is attempt to make the in-store shopping experience ”great,” according to Robinson-Foley. For example, in-store festive decorations or stocking the shelves with more gift-like items — things that make being in store that much more enjoyable. 

From the viewpoint of a consumer, Lane Tech English Teacher Ms. Cwiak has had a different experience than usual while shopping this holiday season. 

 “Things seem to take a little bit longer than in years past, so just recognizing that, I’ve ordered things ahead of when I really need it by,” Cwiak said. 

Ordering ahead is a choice many consumers are making this year, especially those relying primarily on online shopping. 

“Online shopping is more convenient for me, and especially with COVID, it feels like a safer way to go about it,” said Ms. Cwiak. 

Due to delayed shipping times, customers may also have to sacrifice getting a specific item and search for alternatives instead. 

“When online shopping, I found that a majority of the things I wanted to purchase were out of stock or very delayed,” Arrandt said.  A sweatshirt I wanted was available for preorder, arriving in February.”

These delays bring another change to gift-giving traditions this year, as many gift-getters and gift-givers will have to expect that not all of the gifts on their wishlist will arrive in time. 

“I celebrate Hanukkah, which came around early and seemingly very fast this year; a lot of the gifts I ordered for my friends and family haven’t even arrived yet — and Hanukkah is over,” Arrandt said.