DENVER — The tree will be bare and the stockings empty.
You won't even be able to drown your sorrows in mulled wine because the liquor store has gone bottoms up.
The talk around this holiday shopping season has been dire, to say the least. Not quite meeting a sketchy dude in a back alley to secure a knockoff Furby or bare-knuckle brawling for a Cabbage Patch doll, dire. More like, 'sorry honey, you see...the international chip shortage', kind of dire.
Is it all a bit exaggerated? Absolutely. Supply chain issues aside, you should still be able to find something good to give to your loved ones — I haven't heard anything about a jewelry shortage, fellas. But plenty of good stuff, from bikes to video game consoles, could be hard to come by.
If you're a procrastinator, you'll probably keep procrastinating no matter how much warning you're given. If you're not, you could do well to listen to the following advice:
We're starting with the obvious here. To increase your odds of actually getting what you want by gift-giving time, you should order it sooner rather than later.
"If you are going to have to order something online, I would absolutely say start looking now to order," said Julie Ramhold, a senior staff writer and spokesperson for Deal News. "If it is from a mass retailer, you may be able to push it a little bit. If you're ordering from a small independent business, sooner is better."
Even if the item is in stock, Ramhold says there's no guarantee it arrives in prompt fashion.
"The worst thing is that USPS has slowed its delivery time window by, I think, 30%, and they've also increases prices on shipping," Ramhold said. "So, especially with smaller retailers, if they're looking to save a buck and they don't want to pay higher prices, they may be looking for alternate carriers like UPS and FedEx and, unfortunately, that's putting a strain on their systems as well."
What's the hot toy this year and can I find one?
Ramhold says there is no definitive must-have item this season. Supply, though, is fairly strong.
"It definitely doesn't help that we don't know what exactly the hottest toy is going to be this year," Ramhold said. "But I do know that toy manufacturers have been anticipating the shortage for months now. So, they ramped up production as early as they could. For now, it seems that the items are on the store shelves, they just don't know how long it's going to last."
If you're looking for a PS5 or Xbox Series X, godspeed. The consoles are currently nigh impossible to find at list price. Your best options are either to pay a steep mark-up secondhand or follow along obsessively in the hopes of catching a store at just the right time. @PS5StockAlerts seems to do a good job tracking this but also has a million followers, so yeah, you're not the only one looking.
"There are rumors saying, you know, that when it comes to the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X and even the new Nintendo Switch OLED model that, you know, there may be restocks on Black Friday," Ramhold said. "But Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the season, so if you think it's hard to get one now, I can only imagine what it is going to be like trying to nab one online or even in store when Black Friday rolls around."
The year of the gift card
probably still get the family something to unwrap, but honestly, there are worse things than a gift card this year. Think about it: would you rather have $500 to go toward the thing you really want or $500 in sweaters, socks and another Insta-Pot? Let's keep those eyes on the prize.
"There's absolutely nothing stopping an electronic gift card from being delivered to someone's email, you know, on Christmas morning or whatever," Ramhold said. "I think this is going to be a big year for digital things in general. Whether it's a Spotify membership or an Audible membership or a Netflix subscription for a year or something like that, I think shoppers in general are going to find that the closer we get to the holidays, those digital options are going to become their best bet for actually gifting something for the holidays."
It's all about the experience
Concerts and shows are back. Ski areas are open. There are worse ways to spend a day and a few hundred bucks.
"For example, my husband got us Hamilton tickets," said Melissa Akaka, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Denver. "They're a surprise for my kids, so hopefully my kids don't see this." (Kids, if for some reason you're reading a story about supply chain issues, I am sorry).
"The idea is that when you open the gift, it's super exciting to get the gift. But then you have the anticipation of waiting for this experience to occur as well. And so it's kind of like the gift that keeps on giving," Akaka said.
Of course, Hamilton tickets are also hard to come by — not a supply chain issue, the songs are just really good. Akaka says you should still be able to find an experience that works.
"I mean, I'm a child of the 90s and New Kids on the Block is coming to town," Akaka said. "There are a lot of things that are starting to open up again, and I think those things are really meaningful because we haven't been able to do them for so long."