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'Buy early': Economist says holiday shopping, shipping will be tougher than ever

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Posted at 10:00 PM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 00:07:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sticker shock and delays are already impacting big retailers and small business owners in the metro.

With the U.S. Postal Service saying the busiest time of the season is not for another two weeks, local economists and business owners say start holiday shopping early.

“Around the holidays, it’s hard to manage a small business the way the shipping is,” said Kaylah Wesley, Kansas City artist.

25-year-old Wesley has a large following but is hitting a roadblock as she works on commissioned stylistic portraits.

Wesley says specialized shipping is the issue this holiday season whether it be cost or timing.

She experienced shipping shock after thinking sending a large painting would cost $150 but was charged $300 instead.

"Well, I have to ship it off," Wesley said. "In my mind, I was thinking I should have charged more for this painting. Okay, so lesson learned now.”

William K. Black, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, says the supply chain shortages and delays will be tougher than ever this year.

“Do it early, buy early, ship early,” Black said. “The things you want to give may well not be there.”

He says while shipping costs are up, typical packages may only cost a buck or two more. The real issue is when gifts will arrive.

Additionally, he says the pandemic has affected price increases to gifts due to limited opportunities to buy them elsewhere.

Overall, Black says the consensus is such changes will not reduce purchasing substantially even with the odds stacked against the public this holiday season.

“We have the pandemic against us, supply shortages in lots of different nations,” he said. “Huge blockages in ports, we have workers not available, we could have strikes, energy costs, shortages of drivers.”

Last year, the Postal Service delivered 1.1 billion packages.

The Postal Service and Fed Ex recommend mailing everything by Dec. 15.

UPS advises getting items shipped by Dec. 21 for three-day select shipping.