“A perfect storm” is what BYU global supply chain professor Simon Greathead uses to describe the effects of COVID-19 on global supply chain operations.
One year after a surge in online spending on Black Friday, shoppers may still feel these effects with the holidays right around the corner. Stores can welcome their guests once more, but transportation costs and logistics will determine whether their items will arrive on time.
Greathead attributes delays in shipping to more than the increase in demand. He said the bottlenecks, or congestion, at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are adding to the difficulty.
Despite these issues, shoppers, especially students, are eager to take advantage of upcoming deals on Friday and throughout this week.
“Forty-percent of all products coming into the U.S. come through LA and Long Beach,” Greathead said. “My advice would be to buy early. Don’t wait until Black Friday.”
BYU global supply chain management professor Cindy Blair suggested that the stimulus money distributed during the pandemic would contribute to inflated prices during the shopping season.
Blair acknowledged the large increase in shipping will play a role in this year’s prices. “To pay for a container shipment, it is almost 10 times what it was a year ago,” she said.
Although these supply issues loom over this season’s shopping experience, the lessened pandemic regulations have not stopped retailers from anticipating a large turnout this year. Big-box stores, local shops and malls are gearing up for a busy Black Friday.
Cindy Nguyen, marketing director at University Place, said 2020 Black Friday was a success under the circumstances and that this year will also be great. According to Nguyen, the first priority is “to make sure everyone is safe and has an enjoyable shopping experience.”
“I would encourage people to come as soon as you can, and to keep an eye on the different sales,” Nguyen said. “We also have a lot of dining, which gives you another reason to come and experience new things. You never know what you’re going to get if you come here often.”
For BYU senior Kayla Griswold, this Black Friday will be her first as an employee at Bath & Body Works. According to Griswold, Bath & Body Works will be starting its Black Friday deals on Monday, Nov. 22. She also noted that like many other stores, some shipments have been delayed.
“A lot of stores are also starting their deals earlier, so by shopping early, you might be able to avoid the crowds on Black Friday,” Griswold said.
Jim and Mary Germaine consider themselves well versed with Black Friday, or the “beast” as Jim Germaine refers to it. Jim and Mary have worked at Target in Southern California for 34 and 23 years respectively.
“For me, Black Friday itself is hectic,” Jim Germaine said, “The store tries to plan products and staff strategically, but once the doors open, it seems like all of the planning goes out the window because there are so many people.”
He also gave advice for first-time retail workers, saying, “The big thing is to try to be patient. You need to because some guests can be relentless. You can’t let it get to you, so be patient and try to do the best you can to satisfy the guests.”
Mary Germaine advised shoppers to know the employees are human beings. “Don’t be rude to us because we are here to help you get what you want. Supplies are limited and please understand that.”
This Black Friday will be BYU sophomore Thuc Anh Ngo’s second time shopping during the event. Being from Vietnam, Ngo’s pandemic shopping experience made her realize it was really different than her expectations. The pandemic led to last year’s subdued Black Friday lacking in large crowds, and Ngo said she had a lot of fun.
“I’m definitely going Black Friday shopping again,” Ngo said. “This year I’m going to spread my shopping out and go on Tuesday, Wednesday and a little bit on Friday instead of shopping all on Friday.”
BYU junior Victoria Costner has been Black Friday shopping since she was 5 years old and is eager to take advantage of this year’s deals. “What works is getting into teams so you can go around in a store. It’s easier to get a lot of good stuff in teams than it is with just one person.”
One shopper, Sarah Kamhout, said her family uses Black Friday to strategically buy household items. She suggested sites and programs like RetailMeNot and Honey to find coupon codes, as well as Facebook and Instagram pages that could be easier than sorting through ads.
Kamhout also mentioned that seeing the stores rolling out earlier deals “has been overwhelming.”
BYU sophomore Mary Jenkins also related to the exhausting nature of Black Friday shopping, and suggested starting out with a plan. “It’s good to know what and how much I’m willing to pay for something before I go out.”
Grace Bugnacki, a junior at BYU, will have different plans this Black Friday. Instead of seeking deals and discounts, she said she does not find Black Friday appealing, since “it’s such a stark juxtaposition from what we focus on at Thanksgiving.”
She added that Black Friday can also be seen as a sort of cultural event for many Americans. Bugnacki advised shoppers that if they choose to shop, to shop local. Coming from a small part of Northern California that is avid about supporting local businesses and vendors, she voiced her support for supporting people directly instead of large corporations.
“Go to those holiday markets. It may be a little more expensive, but the gifts are a bit more high quality and personal,” Bugnacki said. “You’ll know that your money is going right back into your local economy.”
Josiah Jensen, another BYU student, advised that a lot of small businesses have deals too. “Besides Amazon, you can easily find better deals and cheaper prices from the business’s website itself.”
A shopping strategy Greathead suggested is using the supply chain issues to one’s advantage. “If you can wait until after Christmas, I think there will be an increased amount of products that retailers want to sell for Christmas,” he said. “Therefore, you may find a deeper discount.”
BYU global supply chain professor Scott Webb said he thinks people will do their Christmas shopping earlier this year, with the expectation that there are many products in demand, no easy way to speed up the supply chain and a lack of inventory.
“My real advice is that Christmas is about being with family,” Webb said, “I think experiences mean so much more, and this year is a good one to make that a family tradition. Make it less about opening gifts and more about doing good things together as a family.”