Supply chain crisis: shortages in the supply chain put holiday shopping at risk


Katie Troske

Shoppers walk around Windward Mall with hopes for finding the perfect holiday gift.

By Katie Troske
Staff Writer

Many shoppers this holiday season will spend hours online trying to find the best deals or the perfect gift, but will become as stuck as their packages while holiday supply and shipping shortages continue.

The economy has gone through many changes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the inflation of prices on everyday items.

“There’s cost increases that get passed on to the consumers. Not just because of delays, but because of production cost increases or fuel increases to get in here, [especially] since we are remote on an island,” school store manager Bliss Young said.

According to AP News, the global supply shortages have been caused by a number of issues, from factories closing due to COVID-19, lack of shipping containers used for transporting products and backups at ports and warehouses.

As the economy reopens, the cost of gas and fuel for transportation companies has increased while the demand for more shipping and products grows. Expenses and shipping times may vary and be unpredictable this year.

“If people buy things on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, they can expect either very fast or long delivery times,” freshman Natalie Caldiera said.

While smaller retailers struggle with shipping and supply shortages this holiday season, larger chain stores like Amazon are able to use their own transportation and take extra measures to ensure their inventory.

According to CNBN, Amazon has chartered private cargo vessels and have control over where their products go, and are able to avoid long wait times and backed-up ports.

Shopping at stores in-person rather than online could be helpful for small business owners by reducing shipping costs. It may also guarantee that customers will receive their packages on time and before the holidays.

“Local shopping is important since all the taxes usually go back to your community, so it’ll help to benefit things like libraries, schools, parks, etc,” freshman Maura Wilinski said.

According to a Na Pueo on-the-street-poll, the Mid-Pacific community relies heavily on the online supply chain during the holiday season. Out of 43 students, 48% shop online, 37% shop at chain stores, and only 25% shop at small or local businesses during the holidays.

Supply chain blocks and prices are on the rise this season. (Infographic by Katie Troske)

For most, shopping online is more convenient and a better option than shopping in-store, especially during COVID-19.

“It can be really hectic during the holidays, so a lot of [my] family members decide to shop earlier and online,” Caldiera said.

However, the shortages aren’t caused by the holiday shopping rush alone. These supply shortages date back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic; many products from large manufacturers in China were becoming unavailable due to factories shutting down and workers contracting COVID.

“It’s this whole ripple and trickle effect. Now we’re starting to see the evidence of, ‘Oh my god, this is what it means if 50 postal workers are sick, this is what it means if the entire construction crew no longer exists because it went out of business,” school librarian Nicole Goff said.

The supply shortages aren’t only affecting shopping—they’re affecting all types of inventory across the country. According to The New York Times, schools, companies and even car manufacturers aren’t getting what they need due to the shipping shortages.

“None of the warehouses have these books, because there are shortages on paper, because there are shortages on lumber, because there are shortages on people,” Goff said.

People and the economy will have to adapt to the supply chain issues this holiday season, and luckily there are many ways to do that. Supporting locally owned businesses or giving hand-made gifts this year may be the better option.

“I’ve been going to smaller stores in Kailua to buy gifts because there’s a lot of unique things that you can’t find anywhere else,” Wilinski said.

Shopping may be different this year, but the holidays don’t have to be.

”Despite the inconvenience of not getting to order books or not getting to order Disney pins, it will still lead to making people happy, still fulfilling that Christmas wish list by shopping local,” Goff said.