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Gifts wrapped for the holidays

How the Pandemic is (Still) Changing Holiday Shopping

Adapt Now to Make the Most of the Season

Ho, ho, help! If you haven’t started your holiday shopping, you’d better get on it. 

I received a text alert from Walmart for a special online sale at the end of October. I clicked on the promotion, and nearly every item listed was out of stock. Supply chain shortages mean products are in short supply. Consumers have already noticed many empty store shelves and fewer online choices. It’s chaos. 

Things are not so merry for suppliers and retailers either. Software leader Salesforce projects that U.S. retailers will face an extra $223 billion in costs of goods sold over the holidays. This includes significant jumps in the costs of freight, labor and manufacturing. The consumer shopping experience is also being hampered by raw material shortages and logistics barriers, making some products hard to get. 

There are solutions, with a little flexibility. Read on for some creative ideas to put the jingle back in your jangle and get your shopping list done.

Start now
Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, you may not get what you want this season, unless you order or shop for it early. A dramatic increase in online shopping over the pandemic has driven many consumers to start holiday shopping much earlier in the season. For 2021, big retailers like Amazon and Target started their pre-holiday sales the first week of October! 

Expect to pay more
Prices have gone up in 2021, and if you wrap your brain around that ahead of time, the sticker shock will be a little less stressful. Inflation is a key factor affecting product costs, which has accelerated rapidly in recent months. Prices spiked in June and have remained high, with a 5.4% increase in September across all spending categories.

This might be a good time to make a shopping budget. Set a goal of what you would like to spend on each person and try to stay within that range.

Get your list in order
Jot down a few ideas of the type of gifts that match the person you are buying for. Then you have some flexibility if you are not finding what you like. Larger online retailers should show fairly up-to-date availability. If you prefer to shop in store, many retailers show if an item is available locally, or have the option to ship to the store.

Wrapped bottles of wine

Think outside of the box
Last year, the pandemic focused us on hunkering down and working from home. This year we are emerging from our cocoons and envision a post-pandemic life. Gifts will be less utilitarian and focus more on gathering and getting out. Here are the three gift giving categories that may just hit the mark this holiday season:

1. Experience gifts: People had just about enough of being cooped up close to home by 2021. By the summer, domestic travel numbers were soaring and events resumed. Unless there is another devastating setback, expect this trend to continue. This holiday season, consumers will look to get out, do activities and travel. 

Gift ideas: 

  • For the adventurous on your list, see what events are coming up nearby after the holidays and gift them with tickets. 
  • Instead of buying individual gifts for family members, how about a group getaway to a cozy ski lodge or sunny Hawaii? Alternatively, you could coordinate with a group to share expenses on a destination get-together, and have a white elephant present exchange when you arrive. Being together is the greatest gift!
  • Travel related gifts, such as a wheeled carry on or deluxe neck pillow is ideal. 
  • A picnic basket you fill will gourmet treats is thoughtful and creative, and begs for an outing.
  • A super budget gift is customizable luggage tags. You buy the blanks, and fill with a picture and contact info you print on your computer. 
  • For kids, anything that will get them outdoors and active is key. How about a snowman kit (just add snow!), or any type of athletic equipment they can use right away. Tickets to a year-round water park would be fun too.

2. Social Gifts: So many weddings, gatherings, and parties had to be canceled over the past two years. People want to safely gather again, and you can help.

Gift ideas:

  • Deluxe grilling accessories are a good idea for the grill master on your list. Pair a fancy heavy duty spatula and braising brush with a jar of grilling spices.
  • A great find at the dollar store is a set of gold chargers (they are a decorative plate that goes under a dinner plate to give it pizazz) and matching gold napkins. Do a little sleuthing and get enough for all the place settings at the recipient’s dining table.  
  • You can’t go wrong with a bundle of gourmet cheeses! What a great gift they can use for a New Year’s gathering. Who doesn’t like cheese? Fun fact: unopened cheese freezes extremely well, so it can be enjoyed for months to come.
  • A super easy yet thoughtful gift is a bottle of wine adorned with ribbon, along with a card for the season. The same idea can apply to different beverages your friends prefer, such as a growler of microbrew, cider or kombucha.
  • Candles are a welcome gift for entertainers because they often need to be replaced. Get a trio in different heights for a stunning centerpiece. Costco has a set of 6 flameless candles with batteries for $50. Split that into two sets of three tied up with a seasonal ribbon, and bam, two great gifts checked off your list. Flameless candles are super for households with kids, elderly or for use outdoors.
  • Have a gathering yourself. With our small group of close-knit adult friends, planning a gathering is such a treat. I make all the basic foodstuffs, and everyone brings a dish to share, then take home yummy leftovers. There is always some type of challenging party game, like drawing a snowman on a piece of paper on top of your head (without looking). The “art” is taped to a wall, and guests are the judges. Everyone “wins” a small gift, with the first place artist getting first choice, on down the line. All my close friends are checked off my list in one gathering!
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3. Luxury items: There was not much reason to get dressed up in 2020. But as people start to get out and about more for events, travel and work, they have to be prepared to face the world. Surprisingly, demand for luxury items surged in 2021 according to Statistica

Gift ideas:

  • Some consumers are looking to turn liquidity from underspending in 2020 into goods with value. Think: a statement piece of jewelry.
  • Giftees in this category prefer to shop in person rather than online, to have the sensory experience of handling the item. Check the return policy of the store when buying a high-ticket item for someone else. 
  • A gift card to their favorite shop, along with a small gift, such as her favorite scent or his favorite cologne, is a safe bet. Or go the extra mile and plan a shopping spree and lunch out on the town.

Despite a shaky global economy, supply shortages and our continued migration to online shopping, industry experts predict another record holiday season for retail this year. Just be prepared that the shopping experience is going to be like no other, but with a little thoughtful planning, it can be just as special.

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