Black Friday 2021: Supply Chain Issues Affecting Consumers Holiday Shopping Experience

As consumers are gearing up for the holiday season, retailers are experiencing unprecedented supply chain issues. Congested ports, lack of truck drivers, long lead times and increased consumer demand are causing many of these supply chain setbacks. In addition to the supply chain problems inflation is skyrocketing on consumer goods, companies are having a difficult time finding and retaining employees and loosening COVID-19 restrictions are making this holiday shopping season unlike any other.

The lengthening of the holiday shopping season may help ease current supply chain problems, however, that could also backfire. “If consumers create a “buying frenzy” on Black Friday, as they did during the on-set of the pandemic, many products will be sold out and unable to be restocked in time for the holidays,” says Patrick Penfield, professor of supply chain practice at Syracuse University’s Whitman School.

Although Black Friday is still weeks away, sales are already happening. Retailers are hoping that there will be less of these frenzies by allowing more time and options for consumers to buy the products they want. For example, Target is allowing price matches on any products bought between Oct. 10 and Dec. 24. Customers can buy now, knowing that they can get a lower price if something goes on sale later in the season.

Retailers are also struggling with increasing prices because of supply chain complications. Shelley E. Kohan, an adjunct faculty member at the Whitman School, says, “Retailers are really being cautious about when and where they are raising prices. Although some retailers are strategically increasing certain product prices, others are choosing to make up the margin elsewhere and not pass on increasing costs to customers.”

With certain, in-demand products selling out, consumers are expected to turn to secondary markets. “There’s not going to be a lot of variety or quantity of goods within stores. Once that initial stocking order at the store sells out, and there are no replenishment orders to refill bare shelves, that’s when people will start to panic and they will look to secondary retail sources. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Ebay are some places consumers may turn to for the “hot” holiday products. Unfortunately, they maybe paying four to five times what they would normally pay if they were able to buy these products from a primary retailer.” says Penfield. 

Online shopping may be on the rise, but with fewer COVID restrictions, brick and mortar stores may still come out on top when it comes to where customers are buying their products. “I do think that Black Friday is going to be a big day. A lot of customers are going to want to go into stores on Black Friday because they weren’t really able to do that last year,” says Kohan. “When you look at what happened last year, those non-store sales total for the year 2020 throughout the whole pandemic were about 15%. Prior to the pandemic, they were 13%, so you still have 85% of sales happening in brick and mortar stores, which will continue to be an important channel for consumers to shop.”

Consumers who are expecting big sales on Black Friday this year might not want to risk the wait in the face of current supply chain issues. Certainly, it will be a busy shopping day, but savvy consumers should keep an eye out for deals starting now in order to have a better chance of checking off everything on their holiday shopping list.

Rylee Pohancsek

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