Supply chain strained to keep up with increase in American consumerism

Providence

(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) – You’ve heard the advice from experts by now: Start your Christmas shopping now. 12News spoke with Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management at Providence College Jonathan Jackson about the perfect storm of factors leading to that advice.

Jackson said it’s no marketing ploy to get consumers thinking about shopping early and often. Proof of the contrary is some 73 cargo ships waiting in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California. Arriving from their journeys from Asia, the massive container ships don’t have enough workers to unload the products. Jackson says in Asia, there aren’t even enough containers to put onto the cargo ships. Once in the U.S., there is then delays in getting those items to the consumers, whether they ordered them in store or online. The worst of the pandemic saw companies scaling back, not prepared for this sudden increase in consumer spending again. 

And that’s even before we talk about Christmas shopping. Jackson says large big box stores are actually chartering their own ships to go to Asia and bring back products, so they have the items in stock for the holidays. 

Typically, the holiday shopping craze begins on Black Friday weekend, but Jackson said he’s not quite sure what Black Friday will look like this year. Those big ticket items may be in too short supply to really provide discounted deals on to the first few people into the store, as some promotions have promised in years past. Jackson said if you must wait to start shopping, don’t wait too much after Black Friday. He doesn’t predict any further deals on items that aren’t already offered on Black Friday. 

“The delays will become amplified as we get closer to Christmas, so even if it looks like you might make it, as things back up from early December, it’s just going to keep backing up throughout the month and you could get your gifts in January instead of Christmas,” Jackson told 12News outside Providence College. 

That’s except Christmas-themed products. If those, too, are delayed, they’re not of much use to stores. That could mean we see deep discounts on holiday decorations after December 25, if there are delays in those types of products. 

According to Jackson, there was growth last holiday season, even amidst the pandemic. He said Deloitte is projecting a 10-to-15 percent increase in sales from last year, specifically in online sales.

“The National Retail Federation is actually projecting over 500,000 seasonal workers required for retailers across the country. And if the retailers can’t get the workers they need, it’s going to result in delays in online order, can’t fill the shelves in stores…” said Jackson.

It’s estimated that supply chain delays could remain until as late as next fall. 

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Providence

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