Though the pandemic doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon, society has largely adjusted to the “new normal.” Air travel is still down from where it was in pre-pandemic times, but holiday spending is on the rise. According to a recent forecast from Deloitte, Americans will spend as much as 9% more on the holidays than they did in 2020 when they spent $1.2 trillion.
Of the trillions to be spent on the holidays this year, mega retailers are poised to scoop up a major piece of the pie. Jumbo operations like Target, Walmart and Amazon have already rolled out striking sales events to lure consumers looking to get an early start to holiday shopping. In addition to competitive pricing, these massive retailers cash in on the convenience factor. It’s just so easy to log onto Amazon Prime and order something to be shipped within the next two days at no extra cost.
The Shipping Crisis Is Dire
But this year, sailing may not be so smooth as the supply chain shipping crises, rooted in the pandemic, continues, bringing significant challenges to online retailers who may be inundated with orders.
“In short, shipping containers are more expensive to hire, so it’s driving the cost of shipping up for items coming overseas,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews. “But the bigger issue stateside is that the USPS has increased their prices for peak shipping times this holiday season — from Oct. 3 to Dec.26. This is causing some smaller businesses to investigate other means of shipping, which is contributing to the burden of carriers like UPS and FedEx that have to pick up the slack.”
Making the USPS situation even direr, Ramhold explained, is that they’re slowing their target delivery time by about 30%, meaning those retailers that continue to use the USPS to ship are experiencing longer shipping times than even last year, in some cases.
“I know personally it’s come on fast for some of my orders,” Ramhold said. “It took me about two weeks to receive a couple of books I preordered earlier this year. And worse, it’s not consistent; a friend of mine who lives close by preordered one of the same books from the same retailer at the same time and she received hers a couple of days after its release. Meanwhile, mine ‘shipped’ on October 1 and didn’t arrive until Oct. 14.”
Local Shopping Takes the Stress — and the Expense — Out of Shipping
Not only is the supply chain and shipping crisis a hassle for consumers and the overwhelmed delivery companies, it’s causing shipping fees to skyrocket, and USPS is charging consumers a fortune to send out holiday gifts. Consumers may also bear the brunt of shipping fees as retailers look to cut corners.
“[One] thing that people don’t account for when buying something online is shipping costs,” said Jordan Bishop, founder and CEO of Yore Oyster, a site that aims to help people optimize their finances while living an international life. “Buying something locally means absolutely avoiding these fees and the time they take to get to you, so not only can people save money, but they can also save time and a lot of headaches.”
Big Sites Like Amazon Can Charge More
“The problem is sites like Amazon take over and charge customers exorbitant prices for items that local businesses usually charge for less than half of,” said Harrison Tanner Baron
CEO and founder of Growth Generators, a small business that also works with small businesses. “But because Amazon is a bigger name people tend to go to them rather than local businesses for their needs.”
Amazon may be far more famous than the cute boutique down the street, but its mega branding comes at a cost to the consumer — and to the business manufacturing the product (provided it’s not made by Amazon).
“Many small business owners have found that Amazon exploits and undermines them by selling their product online but then taking the lion’s share of how much their products make,” Baron said. “Then they charge similar products more than those businesses would and take advantage of the fact that customers don’t know that they can go to other, lesser-known businesses and get the same thing for smaller prices.”
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Small Businesses — and Local Economies — Need Our Support
“Perhaps the best reason to shop locally is that you’ll be supporting locally, which means you’ll be supporting your local economy,” Ramhold said. “But you’ll also be helping small businesses to grow and after 2020, many businesses are still hurting and trying to recover.”
A recent report by Small Business Roundtable and Facebook found that 22% of U.S. small businesses were closed in February 2021 — up from 14% the previous October.
Get Items Right Away
What’s more convenient than same-day shipping? Instant gratification. By shopping locally and in person, you can get your hands on your desired item with no delay.
“Unless you’re having to order something custom-made, odds are high that you’ll have your items right away,” Ramhold said. “This means you won’t have to worry about paying for shipping or the items potentially being late or lost on their way to your door.”
Discover Better Quality and Hidden Gems
“Yes, you can go to the grocery store and purchase mass market donuts, beers from a national brand, or tea from overseas — or you can find these things locally,” Ramhold said. “Often these kinds of items are fresher and better quality than the mass produced versions in grocery stores, and while they may cost a little more upfront, it’s usually well worth it.”
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Last updated: Oct. 26, 2021