What to look out for when holiday shopping in a pandemic

With just a few months left until the winter holidays, consumer experts say shopping for gifts will look much different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They suggest starting earlier than usual. The availability of many items will vary greatly compared to previous years because supply chain manufacturing is not back to production levels before government shutdowns.

Retailers might cut back on how much they order, which could lead to shortages of the most sought after goods like electronics.

Stores may not be equipped to handle crowds. Customers who enjoy strolling through store aisles to find the right gift may want to instead create a list before heading to the store.

While shopping online, consider how long presents could take to ship. Many people will buy gifts virtually this year, and retailers don't know yet what to expect in terms of sales.

"That makes inventory planning hard because the retailers don't want to have a lot of out of stock conditions where consumers can't get what they want. But they also do not want to have left over inventory that they have to mark down and lose revenue on," said Barbara Stewart, professor of global retailing at the University of Houston College of Technology.

Holiday promotions are likely to start in October, but experts say the key to fulfilling everything on that wish list is to start early.
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