Photo of parents and a child holding hands as they leave a store dressed in winter clothes and masks

5 things to know about the holiday shopping season

The holiday season is rapidly approaching and experts expect shopping for gifts might look different than in years past. Historically, holiday shoppers have used Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the largest shopping days of the year, as an opportunity to find big deals and get their gift shopping done early.

But this year, they might not be early enough. COVID-19 continues to present challenges for a fluid supply chain and, due to the increased cost for shipping, delayed ports, and shortages of specific parts to create products, consumers need to adjust their approaches. 

Michael Goldberg, associate professor of design and innovation at Weatherhead School of Management and executive director of the Veale Institute for Entrepreneurship, gave us some tips and tricks to navigate shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout this season. 

1. Plan ahead. 

“Try not to wait until Black Friday,” Goldberg said. “People wonder why the holiday season has been extended into November, but now they might want to think even earlier than Black Friday to make specific purchases.”

By doing so, shoppers can build buffers into their timelines so they don’t wind up at the holidays empty-handed.

2. Check shipping times. 

With the supply chain shortages, the backups in ports and the cost of shipping containers rising, Goldberg said that shipping times could be a lot longer than what we normally see. His advice? Be sure to double check the vendor’s estimated shipping times and consider checking reviews from other customers for deeper insight.

3. Expect delays. 

Even with extended shipping times listed, it’s likely that your packages could be delayed. 

“FedEx, UPS and the Post Office are experiencing extreme delays in delivering packages,” Goldberg said. “We saw this last year, but I think we will see it this year and possibly on a bigger scale.” 

He recommends getting your gifts in the mail and orders placed as soon as possible to ensure their timely delivery. 

4. Be informed about your gifts.

There are specific industries experiencing serious shortages for pieces and parts that make their products work. For example, the chip shortage had made inventory of cars and certain technology extremely low, making it challenging to get your hands on these types of gifts this holiday season. If you’re hoping to gift an item in these categories, be sure it will be in stock; if not, it might be best to adjust your plans.

5. Shop local.

The best solution to avoiding shipping delays and product shortages? Shop local and small! 

“This is a particularly good year to support small businesses and local retailers,” Goldberg said. “Many of them have suffered significant challenges over the past 18 months and continue to suffer from the labor shortage.” By purchasing your gifts near home, you’ll not only ensure you’ll have them on time for the holidays, but will help support the local economy in the process.