By Nathalie Voit

Shortages across a broad range of industries are making it harder for shoppers to get their hands on popular products this holiday season. Global supply-chain problems are dampening product availability for everything from Christmas trees to popular tech gadgets to essential items like baby formula. Longer wait times or out-of-stock notices on websites and empty store shelves have become the norm for many customers.

Supply lines are particularly stretched in the electronics and gaming industry, where the global computer chip shortage has backlogged a range of up-and-coming tech products. 

Companies like Apple and Samsung are experiencing significant shipping delays on some of their new products. The iPhone 13 is “seeing demand outstrip supply roughly by 20%,” according to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives. The new AirPods 3 is “already on backorder with shortages into Christmas [week],” said Ives. 

Tech giant Google is also running behind on customer orders of some of their newer models. Google’s Pixel 6 Pro smartphone is currently out of stock on its website. Products that are available are experiencing longer-than-average wait times, with some reporting late January shipment dates, way past Christmas week.

Similarly, gaming consoles like Xbox and PS5 are becoming increasingly difficult to find as COVID-19 production challenges continue to widen the gap between supply and demand, CNN reported.

“We are seeing shortages across the board, but the premium devices — which require more chips for power management solutions, micro-controls, and certain features — will be especially hard to find,” said Gaurav Gupta, VP analyst of the semiconductor and electronics team at market research firm Gartner.

The resultant delays have cut into tech companies’ profits, who typically make most of their annual revenue from the crucial holiday season and who risk weakening sales momentum for some of their just-launched products with the ongoing delays. 

The tech industry is not the only sector experiencing inventory issues. Essentials like baby formula are also getting harder to find. Drug store chain Walgreens, the second-largest retail pharmacy in the U.S., is reportedly having trouble meeting demand.

“We are restocking stores as quickly as possible and continuing to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands,” said a spokesperson for Walgreens, Emily Hartwig-Mekstan.

“[This] may cause temporary and isolated shortages,” she added.

According to the National Retail Federation 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey, baby formula is one of the most stolen items from stores.

“Infant formula has become a top item for thieves because it is easy to quickly resell. Increasingly, we are seeing infant formula resold online,” said a spokesman for the trade group Retail Industry Leaders Association, Jason Brewer. “[Theft] is certainly a factor [contributing to shortages] given the rise in theft that retailers have been experiencing.”

In addition to shortages of essential items, supply chain woes will affect another unexpected industry this winter: the market for natural and artificial Christmas trees.

“The demand this year is going to be extremely strong, and so I think from a consumer perspective people definitely shouldn’t wait,” said Chris Butler, CEO of National Tree Company, leading importer and wholesaler of artificial Christmas trees and holiday decorations.

“Consumers should buy now because, by the time we get to Thanksgiving, which is a peak week for us, I think there’s going to be a lot of empty shelves. We’re seeing pretty strong growth right now already versus last year, and so, I do think that we’re in for a big, big season this year,” he noted.

Warnings to “Buy Now” are not new. Leaders and experts across a broad range of industries have urged customers to forego waiting for lower prices since the beginning of the fall when supply-chain problems that had taken root in the early stages of the pandemic worsened significantly

“My number one tip: Shop now,” Sheri Lambert, assistant professor of marketing at Temple University in Philadelphia, told AP News back in October. 

“Order that special gift for that special someone today. And even then, anticipate and expect the worst — but hope for the best.”