Holiday shoppers buy early and collect items

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Veena Marcano usually starts her holiday shopping early, but this year she set a new personal best: July. Given everything she had heard about shipping delays, product shortages and price increases, she figured she had better move on. So she started hitting retailers like Amazon, TJMaxx and Burlington, diligently stocking up on gifts for her two children, nieces and godchildren. Long before Black Friday, she had everything she needed – and more.

“I have more gifts than kids who need gifts,” says Marcano, 28, who lives in Pennsylvania and hopes to return books and a craft kit.

She is not alone. For many Americans, the holiday rush started long before Thanksgiving, with 45% of them starting holiday shopping in early October, according to McKinsey. One defense mechanism: over-buying, with one in five shoppers stating that they order more freebies than necessary in the event that certain items are delayed or canceled, according to Oracle.

“I think consumers are doing a bit of hoarding. Things that might not be the perfect gifts are always kept, ”says Anisa Kumar, director of customer service at retail technology company Narvar. What if they get their hands on something better? “They will return it after the holidays.”

Panic, it seems, is in the air. Buyers have heard of the harassed global supply chain for months, causing shortages and delays of everything from cars and refrigerators toys and shoes. And now they come face to face as they do their holiday shopping. There were two billion out-of-stock messages online in October, with the dreaded alert appearing on one in 50 pages visited by a buyer, compared to about one in 140 pages before the pandemic, says Adobe. Half of people say they expect packages to take longer to deliver this year, according to Narvar.

Kevin Sims and his wife began shopping for the holidays in early October, after Halloween costumes they had ordered from Amazon weeks in advance were delayed, forcing them to think about other ideas. They had planned a Super Mario theme with their twin kids and their dog, and even if one item was missing, it would threaten the whole set. The costumes arrived just in time, but they got scared.

“It made us think that if we’re going to have a good Christmas, we have to start ordering now,” says Sims, 39, technical writer for Hitachi Vantara who lives in San Jose, Calif. “Some things may not happen here at all. Some things can be delayed.

Buyers are fighting for a thinner inventory selection. Victoria’s Secret is facing delays on 90 million of the 200 million goods that were supposed to arrive for the holiday season, including 25% of its pajamas. Toymaker Basic Fun intentionally left 160,000 Tonka trucks in China until after the holidays because it was too expensive to ship them. Williams Sonoma, Inc., which owns Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and West Elm, still has “far less inventory” available than it would like, CEO Laura Alber said on the earnings call from the company last week. The seasonal items he owns are “flying” off the shelf, she said.

“With a wider awareness of the potential disruptions to the global supply chain, we are seeing many consumers looking to purchase products as soon as they are available in our stores,” said Bill Bortz, executive vice president of merchandising at Lowe’s when calling for company results.

One in five shoppers report ordering more gifts than necessary in the event that certain items are delayed or canceled.

CityRow, which sells a smart rower for $ 2,100, received a spike in orders in October and heard from dozens of customers who wanted to make sure the machine was delivered in time for Christmas.

Retailers encourage buyers. Amazon, Target, Best Buy, and Lowe’s launched Black Friday-style deals in October, while Walmart followed suit in early November. Apple has a red banner at the top of its website urging people to buy early if they want the best selection of items. This further catalyzed spending, with UPS citing data that said half of holiday shopping could be made on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

The deals are less tempting, however, with Black Friday discounts averaging around 5-25% across all categories, rather than the normal 10-30% range, according to Adobe. When you add that to inflation, consumers will pay 9% more on average during Cyber ​​Week this year, compared to last year, according to Adobe.

“The Black Friday pitch is that we have it, not that we have it cheaper,” says Jay Foreman, CEO of toy maker Basic Fun, which sells Care Bears, Tonka Trucks and Lincoln Logs to Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Relaxed policies in the era of the pandemic could further exacerbate product shortages. For example, Target allows shoppers to buy products online – including its Black Friday specials – and arrange to pick them up later, holding inventory for three days before putting them back on the shelves and selling them. ‘issue a full refund. Meanwhile, this merchandise is not available to other buyers.

Return policies have also become more generous. Retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Macy’s are giving shoppers an additional month to return holiday gifts, now allowing items purchased as early as October to be returned through mid-January or late January; Before the pandemic, the holiday returns window only applied to items purchased in November or December.

This will contribute to an avalanche of post-holiday returns, a phenomenon already so big that January 2 has been dubbed National Day of Returns. Americans returned $ 428 billion in goods last year, up from $ 369 billion in 2019.

“Retailers will see the over-buying boomerang return after the holidays in the form of returns,” said Mike Webster, general manager of Oracle’s retail group.

It usually takes three weeks for a return to be processed and put back on the shelf, but after the holidays, retailers sometimes work on the overabundance of inventory until April or May. “It’s a long time to have stocks out of stock,” says Narvar’s Kumar, especially when it comes to seasonal items. According to Forrester Research, half of returns never make it back to shelves, but instead are liquidated, destroyed, or dumped in a landfill.

Faced with the holiday hysteria, some buyers are looking for Zen. Corinna Bechko, 48, started to get nervous in October and quickly went out and did half of her vacation shopping, then decided that her friends and family really shouldn’t be upset if a gift was late to come. because of the supply chain. She certainly wouldn’t blame anyone.

“I was very stressed about it,” says Bechko, who works at a museum in Los Angeles. “Then I thought of all there is to point out, this isn’t one of them. “

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