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Holiday Shopping Preparedness Tips

Have you ever noticed that holiday shopping advertising seems to start earlier and earlier every year? As consumers, we on the Cusa Team definitely do, and know it can be pretty annoying. Who wants to think about Christmas gifts in October? 

As a business, we think a lot about the timing of our own holiday sales season messaging and how we can avoid being another annoying advertiser among the noise of holiday shopping messaging that we know our customers are already bombarded with.

This year, however, it seems there is some real need to consider your holiday shopping plans earlier than ever. Global supply chain shortages, logistics backlogs, shortages of workers in various industries and anticipated delivery carrier delays around the holidays are all separate issues to be aware of, and added all up, they have the potential to lead to quite a few headaches for shoppers this year.

Because we think of our customers like family, we thought it might be helpful to put together some helpful information about the state of things, so you can be aware of the big picture and consider whether to change your shopping plans accordingly to avoid as many of those frustrations as possible.

The US Postal Service is already providing Dec 15th as the last date for before-Christmas delivery for standard ground options. But experience tells us to anticipate even longer delays, so we recommend shipping by Dec 10th if you want to be sure something will arrive on time.

 


Shipping Delays and Backlogs

You may remember last holiday season, when so many shipments arrived days and weeks late, and holiday gifts were being delivered well into February. We’re already seeing the effects of those experiences this year - the USPS announced recently that starting October 1st, First Class Mail delivered to longer distances (not within the same zone) may see delays of 1-2 days for delivery time. However, this may be much longer during the peak holiday shopping season if volume of deliveries exceeds what the USPS can keep up with.

When you choose “Standard Shipping” as your option (free for subscriptions and orders of $25 and more) on our website, your order will usually be shipped by USPS First Class Package or USPS Priority Mail. While UPS or FedEx are faster options than USPS, they are much more expensive, and we don't want to pass on that cost to customers by making it our standard option. Last holiday season we added more options with other carriers to our website for those who needed them, and they remain available today.

We’ll also try to keep you informed of delays we’re seeing with USPS on our Shipping Policy page so you can make the most informed decision possible, whenever you shop.

Shipping Price Increases

If you plan to head to the post office or print postage from a website for shipping gifts to friends and family in other parts of the country, keep in mind that we’ll see rate increases by the USPS during the holiday peak season, too.

Keep in mind that UPS and FedEx also increase their shipping rates during peak holiday seasons each year as well.

 

Supply Chains Woes

Driver shortages, increased online ordering during the pandemic, congested ports and terminals and unexpected events (like data breaches at terminals or a ship getting stuck in the Suez canal) have severely tightened capacity across global and domestic freight. Carriers are extending shipping times, increasing rates and experiencing more and longer delays than ever.

You may have heard about port congestion lately, or experienced long wait times trying to buy a new car or appliance. Furniture companies are facing foam shortages, cell phone manufacturers are dealing with a global chip shortage, and microbreweries are figuring out aluminum can shortages.

Such shortages cause delays in the manufacture of products that need the items, which in turn slows down demand for the other parts needed for those same products. That not only makes products more scarce (and expensive) overall, but also has ripple effects all throughout the supply chain, including how much work is available for those who make products seeing raw materials delays.

Port congestion exacerbates all of it, because even if a product can be made, it might not make it to a warehouse as quickly as planned to then be able to be shipped to customers. Added to that are shortages of delivery drivers and truckers. It seems there’s not a part of many products’ end-to-end journey that isn’t affected.

All of these issues don’t seem to affect consumers on the surface, but can result in more out of stock items, higher prices and overall scarcity of certain products.

Labor and Driver Shortages

Higher demand for online products means more people are needed to make them, and more people are needed to deliver them. However, effects of the pandemic on businesses may have led to layoffs that businesses have not yet rebounded from. As well, those who are available to work may have to quarantine due to coming down with or being exposed COVID-19, making even fewer essential workers available.

Besides shipping price increases and delays in delivery, driver shortages may cause “guaranteed” deliveries to arrive later than anticipated. Due to an increase in this happening, many carriers or companies are not honoring their guarantees with full refunds.

As well, it may lead to higher levels of damaged or mishandled goods.

 

What Does All This Mean for You as a Shopper?

You may see some higher than usual shipping costs for online purchases, and higher prices for products overall. You may see fewer deals from your favorite brands, and you might see more “out of stock” messages for items you’re used to being able to buy and receive quickly.

You should definitely anticipate longer delivery times than usual. So, plan ahead and try to avoid last-minute online shopping if possible.

Overall, you may need a bit more patience than usual this holiday shopping season. Remember that the companies you buy from usually cannot control delivery company issues, so be kind to customer support representatives, who are likely to be dealing with a higher volume of queries anyway.

Remember to embrace the holiday spirit, keep calm, drink some tea or coffee and try to focus on what’s going well with your life rather than get too hung up with shipping, shortage or pricing issues that are simply out of your hands!

And, to give you one more helpful takeaway, here are the anticipated “last ship dates” for before-Christmas delivery from each major carrier. After reading all of the above, however, you may want to take them with a grain of salt!

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