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Shopping Strategies for Another Unprecedented Holiday

 It’s always a good idea to get your holiday shopping done early, but this year it’s more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a microchip shortage and supply chain issues. This means electronics, toys, and other products and gift options will be (or already are) in short supply.

Supply shortages, in turn, result in fewer holiday bargains and higher than normal prices.  This means that sticking to your budget and scoring all the gifts on your family’s list will be harder than usual. To make a success of your holiday shopping this year despite the challenges, consider these important tips.

  Know what products stores might run out of first. Millions of everyday products use microchips to function. Computers, gaming systems, smart appliances, cameras, and toys that feature light, sound, motion, or any kind of tech all use microchips, meaning many manufacturers are already struggling to keep up with the demand for these products. Think through your holiday list and identify must-have items that are impacted by the shortage. 

  Start shopping earlier than usual. Don’t wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start holiday shopping this year. Certain products may already be sold out by November, according to some retailers.

  When you find a good deal, don’t wait to buy. Good deals and discounts will be harder to find this year, so if you find a product in stock at a good price, take advantage of that right away. 

  Budget your holiday shopping without expecting sales. Supply chain challenges mean many retailers have had to pay more than usual for inventory and can’t offer the same bargain prices they did last year. In fact, many products that use microchips have already gone up in price, so plan your budget accordingly. This might mean buying fewer presents or organizing a secret Santa-style gift exchange.

  Have a backup plan. Because so many household items use microchip technology, some retailers already have products back-ordered into 2022. Try to stay flexible this year. If you absolutely can’t get a gift you had in mind, you may need a Plan B. For example, if the toy you wanted for your kids is not available or too expensive, keep in mind that the shortages only affect certain kinds of gifts. Plush toys, outdoor toys, classic toys – like action figures sans electronic features, dolls, and puzzles – should stay in stock and reasonably priced this year.

  Give fun, not stuff. Consider giving experiences and services as gifts this holiday season. These kinds of gifts make memories and never end up lost in a toy box or broken under a bed. 

  Watch out for scams. Whenever a product is in high demand – like the hottest toy of the holiday season – scammers try to take advantage of consumers. Remember, deals that sound too good to be true probably are. In addition, keep an eye out for sketchy sellers that may be selling counterfeit products. Finally, always research vendors you are unfamiliar with to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate business before you make a purchase or give them your personal information, such as your credit card number.

  Always be kind. Many stores and shops will be understaffed – with people who are facing the same challenges you are. Always try to be kind when shopping.

Finally, as we move through this pandemic and spend even more time shopping on the Internet, it’s important for consumers to be careful. If you encounter scams or frauds while shopping this holiday season, please let the BBB know through the Scam Tracker at BBB.org so we can help families have a more joy-filled holiday season. 

Leslie Davis Blackwell is the director of public affairs at BBB serving Central Virginia, including Metro Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, and Petersburg, along with forty-two Virginia counties. Leslie lives in Richmond, misses her two adult children living in San Diego, and enjoys a good round of golf and riding her electric bike.
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