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Holiday Shopping At Mercy Of Prolonged Pandemic-Era Supply Chain Interruptions

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Two months before Christmas, and the rush is on in a different way than ever before. With shipping delays, product shortages and factory closings, many hot gifts will be in short supply. WCCO's Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield looks at what shoppers need to check off their lists now.

It's not just during the time for giving that one group of people at New Hope Baptist do just that. They say they're looking out for the needs of others year 'round, running a busy food ministry on the east side of St. Paul. That sometimes leaves them ill prepared for giving gifts to their own loved ones at year's end.

"I'm never really ready for Christmas," one said.

What's worse, shopping is expected to be more burdensome this year than ever before.

"What I'm really concerned about for the holiday season is getting the product from the customers to the consumers," University of St. Thomas professor Kyle Schmidt said.

Schmidt teaches on the now coveted subject of supply chain flow.

"This is something I studied and never expected it to be super popular," he said.

As the supply chain is seeing unprecedented interruptions, he says the stay-at-home surge in ordering caused a shipping slowdown.

"There is a culmination of a lot of things that are resulting in these disruptions," he said.

What that means for holiday shoppers is that electronics will be in short supply, with China electricity disruptions and a chip shortage. Sneakers and sportswear will also be trickier to find because of COVID-19 factory shutdowns in Vietnam.

And then there's the subject of toys.

"This has been a weird year for retail. We've been through a lot," Mischief Toys owner Dan Marshall said.

There, they've seen a shortage in stuffed animals, kid's sodas, and a slow restock on most everything. The pandemic has also led to a shortage of paper and ink, so there's also a shortage on many books.

"People need to know whatever they see on the shelves right now, at any store, may not be available in a month or two months," Marshall said.

Marshall's store is more than full currently because he planned ahead, putting in extra holiday orders in June.

"This is absolutely the most full our basement has ever been," he said. "We have had to invent space for things.

That preparation may be some shoppers' saving grace.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that these retailers ... they are holding more inventory, anticipating a strong holiday season," Schmidt said.

The professor still suggests to shop early. He also says the chip issue will be a long-term supply issue, so he says expect a delay for a while when ordering electronics, furniture or cars.

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