This year, the excitement around what to give people for the holidays is clouded with a question: Will gifts arrive on time? According to NerdWallet’s annual Holiday Shopping Report, 68% of holiday shoppers anticipate that supply issues could cause the big-ticket items they’re looking for to be unavailable this year.
The good news for consumers is that there are still a handful of categories that are easy to buy, which means you can still shop, wrap and gift presents without worrying that they’ll get stuck on a container ship thousands of miles away.
“This is a year to be more creative in your gift-giving,” says Kerri Camp, associate professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Tyler. “Money is tight for many people, and the cost of goods has gone up, but you can give things that aren’t as reliant on the supply chain."
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Here are six categories of gifts that aren’t directly impacted by international supply chain delays:
1. Products and services from local small businesses
“My first tip to consumers is to shop local. Now is the time to go visit your local, small retailers, because they will have everything in stock and will want to sell them,” says Jane Boyd Thomas, professor of marketing at Winthrop University in South Carolina. “You can also get additional perks like gift wrapping and in-house personalization."
It’s also a way to support the community. “We all did a lot of Amazon this last year and are feeling like we want to support local businesses so they don’t disappear,” says Michelle Madhok, online shopping expert and founder of deals site SheFinds. Indeed, 35% of holiday shoppers say they will shop more for holiday gifts at local and small businesses this year to support their community, according to the NerdWallet survey.
Thomas includes experiences in this category, too, and recommends giving gifts such as tickets to your local museum or theater, or gift certificates to restaurants or a local spa. “People are more interested in experiences than things,” she says.
2. Edible and perishable goods
“Perishable food items can’t stay in shipping containers so go by other methods, like air. We aren’t seeing supply chain disruptions on airplanes, so it’s much easier to get those items in stock,” Camp says. Shoppers can also shop online for monthly subscriptions for items like food, flowers and coffee, so gift recipients continue to receive boxes all year long.
At 1-800-Flowers.com, which includes brands like Harry & David and Wolferman’s Bakery, spokesperson Kathleen Waugh said that many items — including baked goods, candy and pears — originate from the United States, so they don’t face international delays.
In an email, Waugh explained that the company expects strong demand this season and has worked to prepare for it. Last-minute shoppers can also send gift notifications electronically, and the recipient can accept or exchange it before it is sent.
3. Handmade arts and crafts
At Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade goods, many sellers make items from home with supplies they already have on hand or that are locally sourced. Shoppers can also message sellers to confirm the items are available for timely shipping.
Brandi Ann Garcia Salinas, who runs the WhimsyTreeLane shop at Etsy along with her husband Rodrigo, makes wooden toys, including peg dolls and nesting dolls. “International stocks don’t affect us because we are selling what is already available,” she says. If some supplies are slightly delayed, as they can be sometimes, then she just shifts what she sells, such as selling a different size doll that she can make based on the supplies she already has in stock.
“A handmade business can adjust,” she says. Garcia Salinas, who is based in Fort Myers, Florida, says she expects demand for handmade items like hers to be high this season, so she encourages shoppers to place their orders by the first week of December.
4. Products that are made in America
At the Made In America Store, hundreds of toys, games, cookware, paper supplies and more are ready to ship, and all of the items are made in the United States. “We don’t need anything off a shipping container,” says Mark Andol, owner and founder of the store, which has a flagship location in Elma, New York. “My advice for shoppers is to think about buying U.S.-made things this year."
The toys at Andol’s store include yo-yos, trucks and puzzles, but not electronics, which Camp says is especially beneficial for kids this year. “Kids have been inundated with electronics over the last year and a half, and it’s a good time to get back into arts and crafts, games, books, science experiments — things that enhance their creativity without electronics,” she says. Since many electronic items come from overseas, you can also avoid shipping delays by skipping them and focusing on more traditional toys instead.
5. Digital gifts
“This is the year of the downloadable gift,” Madhok says. While it might be hard to find a particular video game cartridge for sale, for example, you can download the digital version directly to your gaming system. Or, give a digital gift card, online subscription or digital custom artwork. Madhok recommends pairing digital gifts with something tangible to wrap, such as an iTunes gift certificate along with a nice bowl and popcorn.
6. Donations in people’s names
Donating to charity in someone’s name is especially appreciated if it lines up with the recipient’s interests, Thomas says. “We’ve seen a shift away from mass consumerism since 2019, and the end of the year is always a great time financially to give,” she says.
Whatever category you choose to shop, Camp offers one more tip: “Be patient with your shopping list, have a backup plan and shop early.”