In the lead-up to Christmas, businesses are quieter than normal as they face supply chain issues prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating floods in British Columbia.
With jolly old St. Nick’s visit to homes exactly one month away, the Sun asked its Facebook page visitors earlier this week how their holiday shopping has gone so far.
While limited availability for items was a factor in the more than 20 responses received, it wasn’t the only concern. The affordability of gifts is preventing some folks from making the purchases they want.
"Worrying about funds this year as everything is increasing except wages," Christina Shannon wrote. "We’ve decided to only do gifts for kids this year. Going to concentrate on a holiday meal with family instead. Company is gift enough."
"Did some online buying which all came, a little store shopping for little grandkids, older ones just getting money," Kathy Lintick-Rawluk wrote. "Money is a little tighter as I’m retired."
To head off high prices or just because of personal outlooks on gift-giving, some commenters got creative to find presents.
"I try each year to make homemade gifts, just because I think they are more heartwarming," Larkie Rule posted. "Sure I buy what I can, [but] it’s all about family time. Gifts, food, lights, camera, action all wrapped up in one day. The true meaning of Christmas comes from the heart."
To avoid getting hung up waiting for items to arrive from elsewhere, some readers are looking closer to home.
"Will be starting my Christmas shopping next weekend at The Town Centre farmers’ market," Don Burnett wrote.
Foreseeing potential supply chain issues, some people have been planning out their gift buying well in advance.
"Christmas is literally the same day every year," Ruby Veronica stated. "Sales happen all the time. If you aren’t shopping all year during sales and such ... I can’t help you."
"I anticipated some supply chain issues, so I finished in October," Kelly Main posted. "I just have a couple things left to get for the family we adopted because we didn’t get their details until last week."
Another way around supply chain issues is to secure placeholders for presents.
"With my family, we are really good with gift cards," Daryl Lowdon wrote. "It’s easier to figure out what to get them in case there are supply issues, and they can get what they want when they can get it if there are issues."
Others took the opportunity to rethink their gift-buying strategy.
Justin Zinger wrote that he called his mom in Ontario last week and asked her if there was anything she really wanted. She said she would like a convection-style air fryer sold by Costco and he sent her the money to cover the cost.
"She bought her air fryer online and she got it Friday!" he posted. "A bit early, but it was on sale."
The other advantage of choosing gifts this way, he wrote, is that he could avoid crowded stores filled with too many people while the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing.
The supply chain issues can be frustrating for shoppers, but they’re also a problem for businesses as well.
Kathleen Cook, senior policy adviser in Manitoba for the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), told the Sun Wednesday a large percentage of their members in both Manitoba and Canada identified supply chain problems as a major concern.
Last month, the CFIB asked its members in a survey: "Heading into fall, what are you top concerns?"
In Manitoba, 72 per cent of respondents listed supply chain challenges in their answer. Sixty-three per cent of respondents across Canada answered similarly.
The organization has 95,000 members nationally including 4,500 in Manitoba.
"It’s been a growing problem throughout the pandemic, and it’s been exacerbated by the disaster in B.C.," Cook said.
The supply chain issues are also increasing the cost of doing business, which is putting companies in trouble with sales still depressed because of the pandemic. According to Cook, only one-third of businesses in Manitoba have seen sales recover to where they were pre-pandemic.
Like some Sun readers have already decided to do, Cook recommends that gift cards can be a great way to support local businesses as they wait for stock to come in.
As these global solutions continue, Cook said there’s no easy solution to get things back on track. However, she believes there are some measures that governments can do to help businesses get through these tough times, especially with some pandemic-era supports having recently expired.
"One thing government can do is limit the costs they impose on businesses to help offset the increased costs of doing business and lost revenues businesses are seeing right now due to supply chain disruptions," she said. "That could come in the form of meaningful tax relief, or in the case of the federal government, one of the things we’re worried about right now is significantly hiked [Canada Pension Plan] premiums in January.
"Businesses just don’t need new additional costs right now, so we’re asking the federal government to hit pause on that initiative."
» Twitter: @ColinSlark