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Expert predicts presents will make it under the tree as supply chain improves

Shopping masks
Posted at 10:28 PM, Nov 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-27 00:26:23-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Your presents may just make it under the tree this year. As the busiest shopping season of the year began with Black Friday, a VCU supply chain expert said there had been a recent drastic improvement in the functions of domestic supply chains, and he was more optimistic than he'd been in a while.

"I'm here with my uncle and my aunt we came to Black Friday shop," said Cristian Martinez, who stood with his family outside a Richmond Walmart Friday.

From one location to another, Black Friday shoppers like Martinez were hitting the big retailers, hoping to score a winning deal.

While they did get a nice Spiderman scooter for one of the kids, Martinez said he and his family struck out in the electronics department.

"As we came in, we noticed that pretty much everything was out of stock," Martinez said.

Meanwhile, Colter Christensen hit the jackpot -- walking out of the retailer with a cart full of items.

"So, I got a vacuum, curtain rods, some holiday pillows," said Christenson, who said he'd just closed on a house and was working to furnish it.

"Everything I needed was still stocked. So yeah. Not too bad."

Christensen added that he was surprised that he was able to find everything so easily.

"I was really nervous because of the supply chain issue, but yeah everything I needed was there," he said.

Over in Carytown, another shopper found more success.

"It’s been great, I mean almost every store has some sort of promotion going on," said Stephanie Romero. "I bought clothes, a book, and some accessories."

For weeks experts like Jeff Smith, Chair of the Supply Chain Management and Analytics Department at VCU had been urging shoppers to get ahead as the holidays approached amid nationwide supply shortages.

But within the last couple of weeks, Smith said that was drastically changing.

"Things are looking significantly better," said Smith. "Our supply chains aren't broken. They were just stressed."

Smith says that turnaround was thanks to more coordination and unified efforts from major retailers like Walmart to keep their shelves full.

He said they did that in a multitude of ways.

"When Walmart recognized that there was going to be a serious congestion at some of the ports, they would buy or lease off-site positions, so that they can get the cans from a port to a different location and distribute from there," said Smith. " You see like Lowe's and Home Depot, for instance, they've done a lot of joint efforts. So, they're trying to collectively understand how they can jointly solve these problems because they know it benefits both parties."

In terms of what that will look like for holiday shoppers, Smith said to still expect delays on certain things, but overall availability on others.

"For this holiday season, we may not have all the electronics we want. Because you've always heard about the chip shortage and things like that. But you're still going to have options, they just may not be the newest options," said Smith. "Most of the players who are major holiday shopping outlets have really gotten ahead of this and have made it to where I think we're going to have most things available."

With Small Business Saturday just hours away, Smith said shoppers may notice more shortages when shopping small, since those businesses typically don't have the experience, buying power, and/or capability.