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Shopping tactics to help stay ahead of the supply chain issues

Consumers may have to choose another brand, give a gift card or pay more for what they want this holiday season

Shop worker helping customer with choicesConsumers should be prepared for limited inventory and increased prices overall when shopping this holiday season (Getty Images/Vladimir Vladimirov)

There’s lots of talk about tackling those holiday shopping lists early to stay ahead of global supply chain issues, as retailers grapple to receive and move products from their shelves. 

Though supply chain challenges are likely to be an ongoing issue, there are a few things consumers can do to help avoid “out of stock” notices, while checking off those gift lists. Here are some suggestions to get your gift giving on track. 


With product delivery delays and lower than expected inventory, consumers may need to adjust their expectations, agree experts. 

For example, this might mean choosing a comparable brand if you’re buying something like a TV, says retail expert Michael LeBlanc, founder and president of M. E. LeBlanc and Company, which provides retail industry analysis through various mediums including speaking engagements, guest appearances, blogs and podcasts. If you’re set on a particular brand, plan to make that purchase after the holidays. 

“If it’s not on the dock or in the back of a truck today, there could be a problem,” says LeBlanc. “The willingness of consumers to substitute will be very important.”

Pat Campbell, vice-president, strategic initiatives from Supply Chain Canada, adds that consumers can look to retail alternatives such as purchasing gift cards that can be used when products are back in stock.

Alternatively, “shift thinking away from goods to services in your own community,” she says. These could include gift certificates for a local spa or restaurant.


Consumers can expect annual sale days, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to still deliver deals, says LeBlanc, as these retail events are planned months in advance with special buys and pre-orders placed with vendors around the world. However, issues may arise around the amount of inventory that has arrived in stores. 

“Retailers are reporting that the delivery of these special buys is sometimes difficult to predict,” he says. 

As a result, he adds, consumers can expect more last-minute email, social media, digital and in-store promotions. “Consumers should subscribe and follow to stay in the know,” he says. Also, expect sales to continue through and beyond Boxing Day, as retailers extend or adjust promotions reacting to the unpredictability of product arrival.

Outside of these big sale days, Campbell says that consumers should expect to see higher prices for goods overall, given the impact of inflation and other supply chain issues, such as rising shipping and container costs incurred by vendors and suppliers. 

“The increase in transportation costs, whether it’s the cargo carrying it or ship you’re putting it on, all costs are going up, so we have to expect prices at the end point to also increase,” she says.


From transportation delays to labour shortages and manufacturing issues, retailers have been hit in varying directions by the supply chain issues. Pandemic-related health and safety precautions such as social-distancing measures have also taken their toll on the production and movement of goods, Campbell adds. Literally everything has slowed down, reminds Campbell, and consumers must be patient. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the manufacturer, transporter or packing plant, productivity has been slower,” she says.

Consumers should also anticipate and prepare for delivery delays with their online orders, Campbell says. “People expect to see their packages within 24 hours of placing their order,” she says. “That may not happen, as retailers do their best to get things quickly onto and off of the shelf.”

Keep track of retailer and postal service delivery deadlines to avoid any issues, or alternatively, shop in-store, as 35% of respondents are planning to do, according to the CPA Canada Holiday Spending Survey. If you’re trying to avoid in-store shopping, remember that you can always opt for curbside pick-up.   

Finally, LeBlanc adds, consumers should understand that these supply chain issues aren’t expected to resolve any time soon. 

“Even if we’re not dealing with it at this level of intensity, we’ll still feel the impact well into 2022 and probably into 2023,” he says.


Learn about the e-commerce trends that emerged out of the pandemic. Plus, find out how Canadians feel about holiday spending this season with a breakdown of CPA Canada’s 2021 Holiday Spending Survey.