Supply chain affecting back-to-school shopping; here’s some advice to help you

·3 min read

After two years of e-learning, parents are eager to get their kids back to school.

However, with record high inflation and supply chain issues, many have been left wondering if they will even be able to find the supplies and clothes their kids will need.

And the longer you wait to shop, the fewer options you’re going to have. This year, it is expected to be even worse as supply chain issues are still a problem.

While you may have a list and have checked it twice, you’ve got to find out if stores have what you’re looking for.

“There is that concern they’re going to go to the store and not find it,” said Leah Logan, vice president of social commerce products, INMAR Intelligence. “They need clothes and they need accessories and they need things because they’re going to be in person. It’s not shoulders up dressing.”

Things like backpacks, stationery and tech items are all hot items as demand is up. However, all bets are off as the supply chain continues to shake off a pandemic-induced hangover.

A slow recovery, which has been compounded by high demand, limited inventory, worker shortages, a backlog of delayed shipments and more, had caused some serious problems.

“It’s something people are very worried about. They’re actually more worried about shortages and outs of stocks this year than they were last year,” one consumer expert said.

According to a Deloitte survey, 2/3 of shoppers are expecting to see stockouts because of supply chain shortages.

“With inflation, it’s not just about price sensitivity but it’s almost compacted with supply chain challenges, so more and more consumers are planning on kind of stockpiling and shopping early,” Logan said.

According to the National Retail Federation, 56% of school shoppers started chipping away at their lists in early July, while 44% of people are having a hard time finding what they need based on new LendingTree numbers.

“The supply chain challenges and also just overall things that are happening with the economy, people are feeling it,” Logan said.

However, the National Retail Federation said it doesn’t mean you should expect to relive the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. It just means, you may have fewer options.

“The retailers we talked to, many of them brought in this inventory earlier. Many of them accounted for these delays in supply chain already. ... We’re currently sitting at record levels of inventory, obviously we’re at record levels of sales as well,” said Mark Mathews, VP of research with NRF.

So what do you do if you waited just a smidge too long and the shelves seem sparse?

First, take inventory of the clothes and supplies you already have.

Once you know what you really need to buy, you can prioritize your shopping.

Big-ticket items like laptops and tablets are likely to sell out first because of an ongoing microchip shortage, so you’ll want to pick those up right away.

If school supplies are out of stock, scope out different retailers or head online and let a search engine do the heavy lifting for you.

You can also use shopping portals to help you find the exact items your child wants.

If you’re still coming up short or empty-handed, you’ll probably have to select something else.

You can also opt for cheaper items or head to discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, or give new life to some old items. There are also consignment and thrift shops that might have the items you need.

While inflation is high, buy a little now and plan to spend more later, during holiday sales.

It is hard to say when exactly the supply chain will recover because it is impacted by so many things. But some economists suggest we could see a return to normal by the next school year.