Christmas shopping and global supply chain woes

Before March 2020 and the disappearance of toilet paper and bottled water, I dare say most Americans were only vaguely familiar with the global supply chain. Now, many more of us are keenly aware that shelves could be empty because of supply chain snarling – and that’s what the country faces heading into the holiday shopping season.

There are multiple reasons why this is happening, but the over-arching culprit is the pandemic. A terminal in the third-busiest container port in the world was closed for weeks after a dock worker tested positive for COVID-19. There are still ripples from the Suez Canal being blocked in March. There are shortages in supplies and in labor, from manufacturing to transportation to sales associates in stores. Container ships are sitting off the coast of California, waiting to be unloaded and once they’re unloaded, the containers wait again to be transported. The pandemic pushed a lot of purchasing online and some experts are saying that it’s been like Christmas all year, with peak capacity becoming the norm.

President Joe Biden announced yesterday that the Port of Los Angeles would join the Port of Long Beach in expanding round-the-clock operations to unload an estimated 500,000 containers waiting on cargo ships offshore. Large retailers like Target and Walmart have agreed to step-up 24/7 operations, although Target CEO Brian Cornell says they’ve been running 24/7 for years.

My take-aways from this global traffic jam are these:

  • Shop early
  • If you see something you want to give as a gift, buy it right then. It might not be there on your next trip to the store.
  • Shop locally, including from some of Utah’s fantastic artists and craftspeople.
  • Focus on experiences rather than purchased gifts made overseas.
  • Give the gift of time.

Maybe the Grinch was right. Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!