(NerdWallet) – Logistics in general, and supply chain in particular, is not something Black Friday shoppers think about. Until the pandemic hit and empty shelves were where baby formula, produce and, yes, toilet paper once stood.
Are we going through shipping bottlenecks, clogged ports and long-distance trucking problems? How will supply chain and inventory levels affect Black Friday deals?
There is good news.
Black Friday is here now
That’s probably not surprising Black Friday has become a thing with the wrong name. Retailers have been rolling out pre-holiday discounts, and the National Retail Federation’s latest consumer survey showed that 38% of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping earlier this year than usual.
And 45% of 2,000 consumers surveyed by NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics in September said they plan to shop in-store this Black Friday.
But wait. Are we still living in a supply chain problem? We have seen videos of ships jamming major ports, loaded with containers everywhere.
“In addition to finding alternative ports, using air freight and finding alternative suppliers, many retailers are moving merchandise early this year to beat rising inflation and supply chain disruption issues,” Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the NRF, said by email.
“You don’t have a hundred ships sitting in ports outside of the ports of LA and Long Beach right now, so it’s been growing,” said John Haber, chief strategy officer for Transportation Insight, a logistics management company.
Products in ample supply
The retail industry reports well-cased warehouses, and The discount has started.
“Retailers have taken several steps to ensure they are prepared for increased customer demand and have the necessary inventory in stock for the beginning of the season,” said Emas.
Haber said his company serves nearly 15,000 customers, many of them retail, and “most of them have too much inventory — and some of them have too much inventory.” Some products are still sitting in crates, not because of transportation problems but because of lack of room in distribution centers, he added.
The overstocked issue stems from retailers ordering too much inventory below empty shelves that plagued profits last year, Haber says. “So companies are going through a lot of inventory earlier this year before the peak season.”
Then, inflation hits, and consumer demand drops quickly.
What product categories are seeing the deepest inventory? Clothing, electronics and toys appear to be in good supply.
Macy’s told NRF that more than half of its holiday stock will be new items — the most in recent history. Nike has announced “aggressive markdowns” to clear the backlog and inventory.
Target has announced discounts on toys, appliances and electronics. Meanwhile, Walmart has said that toys, electronics, home decor and beauty products will be in the bargain bin. It has increased inventory in-stock on items that are expected to sell best, including TVs, tablets, appliances, wireless headphones and robotic vacuums.
With the housing industry down as mortgage rates rise, buyers can also find deals on major appliances — items that are often in short supply during the pandemic.
Are there any lingering shortages?
Although essential items such as baby formula and some groceries are still in short supply, the gift-giving season seems to be in full swing. Nearly 90% of 100 retail executives surveyed in August by accounting firm KPMG expect minimal or no shortages during the holidays.
However, “anything that requires a chip” can be rare, Haber said. Many products contain semiconductor chips these days, including consumer electronics such as gaming devices, televisions, computers of all sizes – and smartphones. If such items are on your shopping list, you may want to buy them when you see a good deal and know the retailer. return or price matching policy if you find a better price later.
What is wrong?
There are several possible setbacks that could affect last-minute deliveries of retail stock.
Amazon workers in Illinois recently staged a walkout during the second Amazon Prime sale of the year. More than 20,000 unionized workers who build and maintain railroads have rejected a labor agreement, once again raising fears of a railroad strike. And the pilot for FedEx is seeking a federal mediation process involving pension benefits.
Add in possible weather delays and you can see how vulnerable the supply chain is. Your best choice may be to do your Black Friday shopping early and use all the inventory that is already on the shelf.