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Shipping backlog puts hot holiday items at risk

"If you want to buy something, get it a little early," experts explain what's behind the supply chain chaos forcing people to shop early.

MINNEAPOLIS — Now is the time to be thinking about your holiday shopping list. 

There are a bunch of things that could make shipping both slower and more expensive this year.

In fact, the post office is increasing some of its shipping prices as early as next week.

The latest hiccup is the shipping containers, full of supplies, sitting off both coasts.

The University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management Professor Dr. Karen Donohue says manufacturers are playing catchup after COVID-19 caused shutdowns.

"Once that got turned back on, things had to be loosened up and redeployed," said Dr. Donohue. "Moving it across water, plane, trucks and rail, all of that has become gummed up as these flows have been reorganized."

Add in labor shortages at warehouses and long-haul trucking companies and it's all leading to unprecedented delays. 

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"The demand is so high we can't get it through the system fast enough," says John Hausladen with the Minnesota Trucking Association. 

Hausladen says demand for truckers is high too but the country is down some 60,000 drivers. It is, in part, due to the pandemic pausing driving school classes and early retirements. That's putting popular holiday items at risk for some retailers. 

"It's called a supply chain because it's a chain, there's separate links," said Hausladen.  "So go all the way back to the beginning and you can't unload the vessels, you can't get the cargo containers off, you get them on to the port, now you can't get them on the trucks."

A successful supply chain can take years of advanced planning. And it can be difficult, and expensive, to change on a dime. 

"Some of the levers that we're used to, retailers just being able to make it work, some of that, those options, may be drying up," said Dr. Donohue.

Experts say instead of panicking, be patient and buy ahead of what they predict will be a robust holiday season.

"The system is going to work, things are going to work their way through but it's going to take awhile," said Hausladen.

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