Originally published on: https://www.usatoday.com/
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For many years, Black Friday was the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season. However, this year, it began on October 4 with Amazon’s massive Deals for Days promotion. With reports of impending product shortages and expected shipping delays, it’s no surprise that people are starting to shop earlier and earlier.
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Some of the major retailers—like Amazon and Target—have already launched early Black Friday deals, with Amazon tweeting that it’s sold over one million toys from its Holiday Toy List in October alone. Not only that but a recent poll revealed that half of Americans have already begun their holiday shopping—and of those, a shocking 70% have run into out-of-stock issues.
If you have yet to start shopping, you still have time—albeit not long—to get all the gifts on your list. Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s holiday shopping season, including the best time to start, the products that our experts predict will sell out and the 2021 shipping deadlines.
Why you should start shopping early
A struggling supply chain along with labor shortages have experts predicting that many products will be in low supply and shipping times could be even longer than last year. Those factors combined with an increase in online shopping have prompted many consumers to start holiday shopping much earlier in the season.
“We have a lot of goods already arriving in the U.S. or on their way here, but they just won’t move to shelves,” TingLong Dai, Professor of Operations Management & Business Analytics at Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, explains, adding that the situation will likely take months to sort out.
Scott Grawe, Chair of the Department of Supply Chain Management at Iowa State University, agrees, cautioning, “While retailers and their suppliers are working together to ensure that customers can get what they need, there are some bottlenecks that cannot be avoided, like a lack of available drivers and a shortage of labor at distribution centers.”
Even the White House is warning shoppers about the turbulent shopping season ahead, with press secretary Jen Psaki stating that they “cannot guarantee” that packages will arrive on time for Christmas due to the supply chain disruptions.
Gifts to buy now before they sell out
With the rise in early shopping and the impending shortages, there are a few key products we expect will sell out quickly—potentially even before Black Friday. Based on IBM’s annual consumer survey, Karl Haller, Partner, Consumer Center of Competency Leader at IBM Consulting, cautions, “Consumers indicated they are spending more in home-related and digital, with furniture (+15%), digital entertainment (+12%) and electronics (+4%) all showing significant increases.”
Reviewed’s managing editor of deals, Tercius Bufete, says that electronics will be in especially high demand. “It’s no secret that the latest gaming consoles from PlayStation and Xbox are hard to come by due to the chip shortage,” he explains. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we’ll see similar stock problems with the latest iPhones and iPads.”
Below are some of the most popular gifts our experts predict will sell out on Black Friday if not before:
Tech and electronics
Get the Amazon Echo Dot (4th-Gen) from Amazon for $34.99
Get the Amazon Echo (4th-Gen) from Amazon for $99.99
Get the Apple iPad Mini (9th-Gen) from Amazon for $499.99
Get the Acer Nitro 5 15.6″ Laptop from Amazon for $739.99
Get the LG OLED C1 Series 65” Alexa Built-in 4k Smart TV from Amazon for $1,896.99
Get the Nintendo Switch Lite from Best Buy for $199.99
Get the Nintendo Switch from Best Buy for $299.99
Get Squishmallows from Amazon starting at $14.99
Pre-order the CoComelon Deluxe Interactive JJ Doll from Amazon for $32.99
Get the Bluey Family Home Playset from Amazon for $30.49
Get the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar from Target for $39.99
Get the Barbie Dream House from Amazon for $199
Home goods and apparel
Get the Ugg Scuffette II Slippers from Amazon for $89.95
Get the Ugg Fluff Yeah Slippers from Amazon for $99.95
Get the Always Pan from Our Place for $145
Get the Barefoot Dreams Throw Blanket from Nordstrom for $147
When you should start holiday shopping
It’s in your best interest to start holiday shopping ASAP, especially if you’re shopping online. While Black Friday will always be a great time to shop for gifts, the unknown shipping times may mean that things won’t arrive by Christmas.
Tercius recommends not waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to order priority products on your list. “You may save a bit more during Black Friday, but it’s risky,” he says. “While we see prices drop to their lowest prices ever during Black Friday, several retailers are already hosting comparable early sales to take advantage of.” Browse our experts’ curated list of the best early Black Friday deals to shop.
Holiday shipping deadlines 2021
The major delivery services—UPS, FedEx and USPS—have all released their holiday shipping deadlines for the 2021 season. These are the latest dates to ship by if you want your gifts to arrive by December 25.
UPS Ground: Check the UPS website
UPS 3 Day Select: December 21
UPS 2nd Day Air: December 22
UPS Next Day Air: December 23
FedEx Ground/Home Delivery: December 15
FedEx Express Saver: December 21
FedEx 2Day: December 22
FedEx Overnight: December 23
USPS Retail Ground: December 15
USPS First-Class Mail: December 17
USPS Priority Mail: December 18
USPS Priority Mail Express: December 23
Last-minute gifts that will arrive on time
If you waited until the last minute or if you’re worried about things arriving by the holiday, you can always opt for a gift that doesn’t require shipping. There are plenty of great gifts you can order right up until Christmas, from subscription boxes to virtual gift cards. Below are some of our top picks:
For the one who has everything: Gift a MasterClass All-Access Pass for $15/month
For the celebrity-obsessed: Gift a video from Cameo starting at $20
For the one who loves flowers: Gift a Bouqs subscription starting at $36/month
For the reader: Gift Book of the Month starting at $49.99/3 months
For the wine enthusiast: Gift a Winc subscription starting at $39/month
For the true crime junkie: Gift a Hunt A Killer subscription starting at $25/month
For the foodie: Gift Home Chef starting at $6.99/serving