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Holiday shopping in October: Why supply chain experts say you need to shop now, not later

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A cargo ship filled with containers waits to be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles on Oct. 6, 2021. The port is currently facing a record backlog of ships. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Every year, Black Friday marks the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. But if you want a happy and present-filled Christmas or Hannukah holiday in 2021, you'll want to start shopping now, in October.

A number of factors are coming together to complicate gift giving this year, especially for those prone to procrastination. Clogged ports, a stressed trucking industry, labor shortages, higher demand and higher shipping costs are all impacting shipments of toys, electronics, apparel and more. The supply chain issues are not only impacting imports from China, where many of this year's hottest toys are made, but also shipments within the United States.

"Major retailers are expecting a strong holiday shopping season, but have warned of limited inventories, longer shipping times, labor shortages and fewer discounts," Morgan Stanley economists recently told investors.

U.S. ports are struggling to keep up with imports

One major pain point in the supply chain is the backlog at U.S. ports. Late last month, CBS News reported that the Port of Los Angeles, which handles 40% of U.S. imports, is facing a record backlog.

"The American consumer's buying strength is so strong and epic that we can't absorb all this cargo into the domestic supply chain," says Gene Seroka, director of the Port of Los Angeles.

East Coast ports are seeing record volume as well. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently reported that it moved more cargo in August 2021 than in any other August on record.

There are plenty of domestic shipping delays, too

waiting at the post office
The cost to ship packages via the post office increased on Oct. 3, when the USPS began instituting peak-season pricing. The move temporarily increases the cost to ship packages between $0.75 and $5, depending on size and destination, through Dec. 26, 2021. Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Of course, unloading cargo from ships is just the first step in getting this year's hottest toys, apparel and more from Asia to store shelves. Shipments need to be put on trucks, as well. And there just aren't enough trucks to get everything where it needs to go without big delays.

"There are really on average about 16 available truckload shipments for every available truck to move product out of (ports)," Bob Biesterfeld, the CEO of shipping logistics company C.H. Robinson, told CBS News.

Scott Price, the international president of shipping giant UPS, says he is half-jokingly warning people to "order your Christmas presents now, because otherwise on Christmas day, there may just be a picture of something that's not coming until February or March." And the United States Postal Service is bracing for increased holiday shipping volumes by raising rates and slowing the delivery of first class mail, effective October 1. (Send those holiday cards early this year, too!)

Here's how to avoid the holiday shipping crunch

The nation's supply chain is stressed, but you shouldn't be. There are plenty of great pre-Black Friday sales at Amazon, Nordstrom, Kohl's and other retailers on right now, offering popular electronics, kitchenware, apparel and more at deep discounts. Here are some of the best Pre-Black Friday deals available now, as curated by the CBS Essentials team.

Walmart pre-Black Friday deals

Walmart has tons of tech, makeup, home goods and more reduced right now.

Hamilton Beach 2 lb Digital Bread Maker, Model# 29881
Walmart

Hamilton Beach digital bread maker, $50 (regularly $70) 

Keurig K-Duo Essentials Single Serve & Carafe Coffee Maker
Walmart

Keurig K-Duo Essentials single-serve and carafe coffee maker, $79 (regularly $99)


Best Buy pre-Black Friday deals

Best Buy has TVs, laptops, video games and more tech on sale

ASUS Chromebook
Best Buy

ASUS 11.6" Chromebook, 4GB memory, 32GB storage, $119 (reduced from $219)


Ulta pre-Black Friday deals

Find makeup, skincare, fragrances and more reduced at Ulta.

prince-u-got-the-look-vegan-eyeshadow-palette.jpg
Ulta

Prince U Got the Look vegan eyeshadow palette, $28 (regularly $55)

Anastasia Beverly Hills  Natural and Polished Starter Kit
Ulta

Anastasia Natural & Polished Starter Kit, $17 (regularly $24)


Amazon pre-Black Friday deals

Amazon's pre-Black Friday sale, featuring what the company is calling "epic deals," is on now. You can save big on Alexa-powered devices, toys, apparel, kitchenware, beauty and much more. Here's a sampling of what's on sale.

Echo Show 8
Amazon

Echo Show 8, $70 (reduced from $110)

Instant Omni Pro 14-in-1
Amazon

Instant Omni Pro 14-in-1 air fryer and convection oven, $250 (reduced from $300)

Melissa & Doug Mine to Love Wooden Play Bunk Bed for Dolls
Amazon

Melissa & Doug Mine to Love wooden play bunk bed for dolls, $40 (reduced from $54)

Love, Diana Sing Along Popstar Doll
Amazon

Love, Diana Sing-Along Popstar 13-inch doll and working microphone, $30 (reduced from $35)


Nordstrom pre-Black Friday deals

Nordstrom has markdowns on men's, women's and children's fashion, home and more.

Disney x Casetify insulated stainless steel water bottle

Disney x Casetify insulated water bottle
Nordstrom

Keep thirst at bay with this Disney x Casetify insulated water bottle (26 oz.) featuring a retro design of Minnie Mouse or the whole Mickey Mouse gang.

Disney x Casetify insulated stainless steel water bottle, $29

Nordstrom Snuggle Plush Faux Fur Slipper
Nordstrom

Nordstrom Snuggle Plush faux fur slipper, $15 (reduced from $29)


GameStop pre-Black Friday deals

GameStop has deals on video games, gaming accessories, action figures and more. 

The Last of Us, Part 2
GameStop

The Last of Us, Part II for PlayStation 4, $26 (reduced from $40)


Wayfair pre-Black Friday deals

Find furniture, small kitchen appliances, bedding and more reduced at Wayfair.

The Magic Bullet Countertop Blender
Wayfair

The Magic Bullet countertop blender, $40 (reduced from $57)


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