'Buy it now': Why retail experts say you shouldn't wait to holiday shop

You'll have a hard finding sales outside of retail holidays like Black Friday or Columbus Day.  

Myelle Lansat

By

Myelle Lansat

Myelle Lansat

Editor

Myelle Lansat is a personal finance editor at Policygenius. She writes and edits the Easy Money Newsletter.

Published September 8, 2021|2 min read

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Shopping ahead of the holiday season is a well known secret to getting the most popular toy before it sells out. But this year, supply shortages and shipping delays could prevent some items from ever hitting the shelves

The time it takes to ship an item from Asia to the United States has nearly doubled during the pandemic. The U.S. The Postal Service is adding surcharges for deliveries between Oct. 3 and Dec. 26 in anticipation of the holiday season. 

The shipping bottleneck will affect what is available heading into the holidays. 

“We can safely anticipate shortages in a number of categories. Everything from toys to general gift items,” says Trae Bodge, a shopping expert. “This is going to be a problem that consumers should plan ahead for.”  

Prepare for higher prices

Inflation is creeping up and prices will continue to rise heading into the holiday season. Big holiday sales, like Black Friday, won’t be the same, says Jan Rogers Kniffen, a retail expert and former department store executive. 

“Planned sales will happen, but they will be lighter than normal,” Kniffen says. If the sale is historically 40%, you may only see 25% this year. He says you shouldn’t wait for a potential sale for a must-have item on your list. 

“Buy it now,” Kniffen says. It’s not going to be cheaper, or there at all, in a few weeks. 

Get must-haves first

Getting the hottest toy for the holidays is the stuff of kids’ dreams and parents’ nightmares. Unfortunately, it will be hard to find a deal outside of holidays like Black Friday and Columbus Day.  

If you’re eager to find a deal, the best tools at your disposal are comparison, coupon, and cashback sites like CouponCabin.com or Slickdeals, Bodge says. If you have specific must-haves on your list, Bodge suggests setting up deal alerts on your devices.   

You also can’t expect free delivery from online retailers outside of Amazon Prime, Bodge says. “You're going to be paying more for shipping than usual because retailers are going to be paying more for shipping themselves. As they try to rush the merchandise, those costs are going to trickle down into the shipping fees and potentially the cost of merchandise in general.” 

The best way to sidestep higher delivery costs is by taking advantage of curb-side pickup or shopping in-store. “Of course, that's your time spent getting in the car and going, but at least you're not paying $25 for expedited shipping.” 

Buy gift cards

Even if you’re the best planner, you may strike out finding a perfect holiday gift. You may not find any last-minute deals days before the holiday, but you can get a gift card at any time. 

In 2020, gift cards were the second-most popular gift, according to the National Retail Federation. Bodge recommends giving digital gift cards using GiftYa, an e-gifting site featuring popular restaurants and stores. 

“That's something that you can send digitally by text and get delivered in 30 seconds,” Bodge says. 

Image: Aleksandar Nakic / Getty Images

Myelle Lansat is a personal finance editor at Policygenius. She writes and edits the Easy Money Newsletter.