ISU Professor: Supply Chains Could Impact Holiday Deliveries

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IOWA – Many took advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals to find family and friends the perfect gift, but e-commerce experts warn of a “shipageddon” of delivery delays this holiday season.

Scott Grawe, professor and chair of Supply Chain Management at Iowa State University, said this is happening due to an imbalance in the supply chain after many operations overseas shut down during the pandemic.

“We’re at a point right now where we’ve got a lot of trailers and containers sitting here in the U.S. that are either loaded with goods, ready to be unloaded at the ports, or they are sitting empty waiting to be loaded back onto ocean containers” Grawe explained, “so that they can be sent back overseas and reloaded so that more product can come here to the U.S.”

Grawe said there’s going to be a huge squeeze on last-mile delivery capacity, think of services like UPS and FedEx.

This means those packages you ordered online may not show up exactly when you want them to. 

Grawe’s advice for shoppers this year includes shopping early, taking advantage of alternative pick-up spots, or supporting local, small businesses where no delivery is required.

“I do most of my shopping right around Christmas Eve. That’s not going to work for me this year, because I’m taking a huge risk in terms of either not being able to find it in the store, not being able to go to the store, or not being able to have it shipped to the person that I needed to receive it on time,” Grawe said. “If I want that element of surprise and I want that gift to be ready when the person on my list is ready to open it, I need to plan ahead and be ready to start shopping now.”

Grawe said there is relief in sight when it comes to this imbalance in the supply chain, it’s just going to take a little time. 

“Retailers and manufacturers and supply chains as a whole are getting better at being more nimble and being more agile,” Grawe explained. “We as consumers tend to keep the retailers on their toes in terms of trying to figure out where our next move is, but yes things are going to get back into balance again.”

Another aspect of supply chains to think about is the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Grawe said right now there are people working on figuring that out once it becomes available.

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