Now that you've pulled your winter clothes out of storage and buckled down for the end of your fall semester, it's time to start thinking about the holidays. They're right around the corner, but your gifts might not get to your loved ones in time. Check out why your holiday gifts may ship late this year to get around the industry-wide challenges that continue to persist.
Port Closures Slow Shipping
The primary challenge consumers should worry about is port closures. You've likely never thought about shipping ports before. They're where cargo ships load and unload orders, so the world has to wait if they can't reach the shore. These closures are happening all over the world and for numerous reasons.
Some of the worst closures are in China, where a recent typhoon and unexpected COVID-19 cases shut down ports. Other closures in major industry locations like California and the U.K. also face similar challenges. Since there isn't one solution for every port, it will take time to reopen them and keep them open for product orders and gift mailing.
Materials Are Missing
You might have a great gift idea in mind for a special person, but the item is always out of stock. It might not be available by the holidays because certain materials aren't available. Magnets are a significant trouble spot for consumers. International laws related to mining rare earth materials recently tightened, so middlemen companies have held onto their materials to sell them for higher prices.
In the wake of Hurricane Ida, 91% of Gulf oil companies shut down to protect their workers. Although most are back up and running, it paused plastic production that halted sales for everything from children's toys to household appliances.
Keep these missing materials in mind when picking gifts. You might have to buy things before holiday sales begin to ensure the items you have in mind are in stock.
The Labor Shortage Has Multiple Causes
There's also an intense labor shortage that has no quick fix. The first challenge is people taking time away from work due to getting sick from COVID-19. The delta variant made people more susceptible to the virus, so quarantining became more frequent.
It puts additional stress on workforces that were struggling before COVID-19 hit. Critical shipping workers like fleet drivers already had a 60,000-worker shortage when the pandemic began, so the teams are operating at an even more significant loss when stronger variants make people sick.
COVID-19 also hurts the workforce when people aren't ill. When kids can't go to school because of an outbreak or shutdowns, someone needs to take care of them at home. Employed women dropped out of the workforce at four times the rate of men due to being their families' primary caretakers. It left a significant gap in the supply chain that slows down or stops deliveries when companies can't fill those positions.
Why wouldn't people jump to fill the empty jobs in the supply chain? There are also strikes happening. The most recent data shows that hundreds of thousands of workers have quit their jobs or refuse to work unless they get livable wages, employer-provided health care, and workplace protections like paid time off for COVID-19 quarantining. The progress could turn numerous industries into better workplaces, but for right now, the strikes will hurt holiday shoppers.
You should also keep in mind that if you make gifts by hand or buy from local shops and plan to mail your gifts, your preferred shipping company could have delayed delivery times. Workers within UPS are striking for better working conditions and fairer hours. FedEx workers are standing firm in their strikes to get more job security. It puts more deliveries in the hands of other shipping companies and ultimately slows delivery times because workers have to ship more packages than their system is used to handling.
Mail Your Holiday Gifts Early
There are numerous reasons why your holiday gifts may ship late this year, so start shopping early. Jump on gift ideas whenever they're in stock and keep delivery delays in mind when it's time to mail your gifts. You can still get everything to your loved ones in time for the holidays by being a bit more proactive about buying and sending gifts than in previous years.