The holidays are quickly approaching, and if you think it's just a little too early to begin your Christmas shopping, well think again.
Thanks to massive and widespread shortages in the global supply chain, among other factors, this year's gifts may be hard to find and slow to arrive.
"We're genuinely concerned about adequate stock to accommodate this upcoming holiday season. With last year being a bit of a bust for holiday celebrations, there's a massive amount of pent-up demand for the holidays this year and stock across the board won't be able to keep up anywhere," said Robby Pettinato, partner and buyer for Toy Joy, Yummi Joy, Wild About Music and Austin Rocks. "The toy aisles at Walmart and Target are incredibly empty, so I'm grateful we've had enough stock allocated to us by our vendors to have a great selection for now."
What IS happening with the global supply chain right now?
Due to a variety of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in online consumer purchases, shortages of cargo ships and shipping containers and a lack of available warehouse and retail workers, the global supply chain is incredibly unstable right now.
"From every step of the process, all the way from product inception, manufacturing, overseas shipping and delivery to our stores, everything is bottlenecked at each step," Pettinato said. "Where as historically most vendors would fulfill 95% of an order within a few days, we're looking at some vendors taking up to three months to process an order and only receiving about 40% of the order. This has made keeping our shelves stocked much more difficult."
How does this instability impact shoppers, both at local shops and big-box retailers?
Don't be surprised to see empty shelves, inconsistent product offerings and shipping delays across the board.
Jeanne Cooper, owner of C'est Chic boutique in Southwest Austin, said many of the items she's ordered for holiday sales are arriving "incomplete or not at all."
"One particular candle line, which used to ship the next day, is now taking weeks because the jars are made overseas," she said. "We've heard from several vendors that their merchandise is sitting on cargo containers at U.S. ports and there is a delay in getting the items to local warehouses. In addition, several vendors are adding surcharges to shipping charges because of their increased freight costs."
Pettinato said "sales have suffered" due to a lack of actual product in the store over the last year, which has, in turn, resulted in an increase in product costs.
"Because of labor and material shortages, manufacturing has increased in price. Similarly, a lack of shipping containers has caused absurd spikes in shipping costs overseas. One vendor told me that what was usually a $1,000 container now costs him $12,000 and is taking several months longer to ship," he said. "All of these costs are passed down at every level, and inevitably are passed down to us as a retailer. This means we have to increase our pricing as well so we can continue to do our best to pay our staff a living wage in an increasingly expensive city."
What should I expect when it comes to shipping?
On Oct. 3, the U.S. Postal Service temporarily raised shipping rates through Dec. 26 for "commercial and retail domestic competitive parcels." This rate increase is in response to anticipated heightened peak-season package and shipping demand, which in turn results in extra handling costs. UPS and FedEx also implemented rate increases in early October. USPS also implemented a similar rate adjustment in 2020.
USPS deadlines include Nov. 6 for APO/FPO/DPO USPS Retail Ground service; Dec. 9 for APO/FPO/DPO Priority Mail and First-Class Mail; Dec. 15 for USPS Retail Ground service; Dec. 17 for First-Class Mail service and First-Class packages; Dec. 18 for Priority Mail service; and Dec. 23 for Priority Mail Express service.
What tips do you have for getting the gifts I want?
- Shop early. Like now. If you wait until you would typically be making holiday purchases, it will be too late. Also, if you see an item on the shelf, buy it. Even if you can find it online, there's no telling how long it will take to arrive at your doorstep. If you do make a purchase online, see if you can pick it up in-store to avoid shipping wait times.
- Shop local. Support local businesses by shopping in person. You'll leave with products in hand and know that you're helping to support the local community.
- Be flexible. If you can't find the exact item you're looking for, this year, it's worth compromising for something similar.
- Be creative. In addition to stores like Target and Walmart, consider retailers such as Five Below, Kohl's and Macy's that might carry the same stock.
- If you wait, expect to pay. Everything from retail costs to shipping costs will likely spike further the closer it gets to the holidays. If you're adamant about a certain item and you find it in stock, it might be worth paying for expedited shipping with tracking to ensure that it actually arrives.
What are this season's hot gifts, and how can I get them?
- Gaming devices: The Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox remain among the hottest gaming devices for the 2021 holidays, and they're consistently difficult to find, particularly the PS5. Check sites such as Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Walmart and Amazon regularly for updates on restock efforts, or follow sites like Tom's Guide, which aggregate restocking information. You can also consider a somewhat easier-to-find option such as the Nintendo Switch, which has fairly wide availability at this point in time.
- Apple products: In September, Apple introduced a suite of new products, including the iPhone 13, Apple Watch 7, iPad 9 and the iPad mini 6. More products could also be announced by the end of the year. While these products show availability online, it's ideal to purchase in store – either with Apple directly or with your cell carrier -- to avoid shipping delays. Both of Austin's Apple stores – Apple Barton Creek and Apple Domain NORTHSIDE – show product availability and accept shopping reservations.
- Toys: Toys are another area that are expected to have limited availability and long shipping delays. As of right now, toys such as L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Dolls, Star Wars "Mandalorian" items and Roblox- and Minecraft-themed items are showing as in stock at local stores. It's hard to say how long that will last, though. Also, you might start seeing limitations on some items, as seen with Pokemon and sports cards at Target.
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Come later tonight, Texans will officially know who will be on the ballot for the November general election.
In Texas, candidates must win at least 50% of the vote to be elected. In the March primaries where the top candidate only received a plurality of votes, a runoff is being held. Voters will decide on the candidates to represent their party in the November general election. Just like the March primaries, voters will choose which party they'd like to vote in. Then based on location, each ballot will show which races are in a runoff.
Here's everything you need to know before heading to the polls.
Know before you go
The registration period for this election has passed; check if you're registered to vote here.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. As long as you're in line by 7 p.m., you can vote.
You'll need a valid photo ID to present once you're at a polling location.
Here is where you can vote in Travis County.
View wait times at polling locations here.
Races to watch in Travis County:
- Republican: Incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick won his primary in March.
- Democratic: Mike Collier and Michelle Beckley are vying to be the Democrat candidate on the ballot.
- Republican: Incumbent AG Ken Paxton is fighting for his seat against George P. Bush.
- Democratic: Rochelle Garza and Joe Jaworski will face off to be the Democratic candidate in this race.
View all the statewide races on the ballot here.
U.S. House of Representatives
View the district you live in here.
- Republican: Incumbent Chip Roy won his primary in March.
- Democratic: Claudia Andreana Zapata and Ricardo Villarreal are hoping to secure this vote.
- Republican: Dan McQueen and Michael Rodriguez are going head to head to be the Republican candidate in this race.
- Democratic: Former Austin council member Greg Casar won this race in March.
- Republican: Ellen Troxclair and Justin Berry are vying to be the Republican candidate in this race.
- Democratic: Pam Baggett won her primary in March.
A big-money bird has been stolen from a northwest Austin pet store.
Kelsey Fernandez, the owner of a $6,000 sulphur and citron-crested cockatoo named Lemon Grab, said the emotional support animal was taken from the Gallery of Pets store, around closing time on Sunday.
"I've struggled with mental illness my entire life, and ever since I got him I've been doing so much better," Fernandez told Austonia.
The $6k cockatoo is young and will starve unless he is fed by hand, Fernandez said.
In a surveillance video, a man appears to have something under his shirt as he and two others exit the business around the same time the store believes that Lemon Grab was stolen.
Fernandez said a report has been filed with the Austin Police Department with an $1,000 reward for his return.
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