Holiday Hold-Up: Supply Chain in Chaos


Photo Courtesy of Kim Wei

CC: Gee Harold! Winter’s coming soon and the supply chain only left me with 2 leg warmers.

Kaya Alper-Nocera, News Page Editor

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, everything has been harder to purchase. Whether it be the toilet paper fiasco around March of 2020 or the extreme increase in hand sanitizer prices, a variety of items have become rarer and more expensive. With the holiday season nearly upon us, most of us are buying gifts for the ones we love. However, this product shortage is still present. According to the World Economic Forum, companies are “still reeling from lockdowns and restrictions, as well as the loss of manpower due to illness or travel restrictions,” and, “many suppliers [have had] to restrict their production and [are] no longer able to meet their delivery obligations in full.”
In September, Scott Price, the president of the United Postal Service, was quoted saying, “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.” His warning advises that Americans should be buying presents a lot earlier than the standard November-December periods. As a result of the many shortages when ordering online, more and more people are resorting to purchasing gifts locally and in-person, like at Larchmont’s Andersons bookstore.
Andersons, Larchmont’s oldest independent bookstore, has been supplying gifts to the community since 1946. This year, however, things are a little bit different. “I think customers have grown used to delays in shipping and are very understanding,” said Jenny Siegel, the manager of Anderson’s. “This is [a] broad based problem and not just in retail.” When asked if it was harder to get gifts stocked, Siegel said, “Absolutely, this is something our suppliers were upfront about since the spring.” In fact, Siegel said, “Everything from getting paper shopping bags to being able to fill our shelves [has been a challenge].” She added, “Many items have been on [backorder] for months.” Due to this, customers have been “placing orders earlier,” and Andersons has, “been busier this year for Christmas,” compared to other years. Online shopping has become a lot more popular, which would theoretically lead to a decline in local shopping. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Anderson’s. “I think folks have really been trying to shop local when they can,” said Siegel, also pointing out that there has been an increase in customer base compared to last year’s holiday shopping period.
The shipping delay has taken a particular toll on families, and not just local businesses. “I’ve started ordering my kids’ Christmas gifts this weekend,” said MHS parent Todd Michael in mid-November. “A lot of the things they want are out of stock, some things I ordered won’t even be arriving until mid-January.” Michael agreed that his kids were bound to be disappointed, and that “[the shortage] is just another effect of the COVID pandemic.” Michael brought up the fact that these delays have been happening for a while, in line with what Anderson’s has been experiencing this year. When asked if Michael planned on shopping locally, he said “maybe for some things, yes. Most of what my kids want aren’t carried in stores around us. If they were, I would totally buy them locally.” Regardless, the shipping delays don’t look like they’re leaving anytime soon.
Everyone is suffering from COVID’s supply chain issues. The product shortages have affected families and local businesses alike. It’s an unfortunate reality that unless presents were ordered online in September, there is a slim chance that they’ll arrive by Christmas. According to Business Insider, many executives are “[unsure] of when the supply-chain crisis will end,” although most believe sometime into 2023. Combined with “suppliers’ inability to adjust to soaring demand, and government interventions,” it’s probable that there will be no changes until the end of 2022, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From these predictions, it looks like next year’s holiday presents might need to be ordered even earlier than this year. Hopefully, this isn’t the case and the 2022 holiday season can be less stressful.