Holiday shopping is starting earlier than ever in 2021—here's what you need to know

·5 min read
Why holiday shopping 2021 is starting earlier
Why holiday shopping 2021 is starting earlier

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For many years, Black Friday was the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season. However, this year, it began on October 4 with Amazon's massive Deals for Days promotion. With reports of impending product shortages and expected shipping delays, it's no surprise that people are starting to shop earlier and earlier.

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Some of the major retailers—like Amazon and Target—have already launched early Black Friday deals, with Amazon tweeting that it's sold over one million toys from its Holiday Toy List in October alone. Not only that but a recent poll revealed that half of Americans have already begun their holiday shopping—and of those, a shocking 70% have run into out-of-stock issues.

If you have yet to start shopping, you still have time—albeit not long—to get all the gifts on your list. Here's everything you need to know about this year's holiday shopping season, including the best time to start, the products that our experts predict will sell out and the 2021 shipping deadlines.

Why you should start shopping early

If you want your packages to arrive in time, you'll want to start holiday shopping ASAP.
If you want your packages to arrive in time, you'll want to start holiday shopping ASAP.

A struggling supply chain along with labor shortages have experts predicting that many products will be in low supply and shipping times could be even longer than last year. Those factors combined with an increase in online shopping have prompted many consumers to start holiday shopping much earlier in the season.

"We have a lot of goods already arriving in the U.S. or on their way here, but they just won't move to shelves," TingLong Dai, Professor of Operations Management & Business Analytics at Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, explains, adding that the situation will likely take months to sort out.

Scott Grawe, Chair of the Department of Supply Chain Management at Iowa State University, agrees, cautioning, "While retailers and their suppliers are working together to ensure that customers can get what they need, there are some bottlenecks that cannot be avoided, like a lack of available drivers and a shortage of labor at distribution centers."

Even the White House is warning shoppers about the turbulent shopping season ahead, with press secretary Jen Psaki stating that they "cannot guarantee" that packages will arrive on time for Christmas due to the supply chain disruptions.

Gifts to buy now before they sell out

Electronics like the Nintendo Switch and Amazon Echo Dot will be big sellers during Black Friday 2021.
Electronics like the Nintendo Switch and Amazon Echo Dot will be big sellers during Black Friday 2021.

With the rise in early shopping and the impending shortages, there are a few key products we expect will sell out quickly—potentially even before Black Friday. Based on IBM's annual consumer survey, Karl Haller, Partner, Consumer Center of Competency Leader at IBM Consulting, cautions, "Consumers indicated they are spending more in home-related and digital, with furniture (+15%), digital entertainment (+12%) and electronics (+4%) all showing significant increases."

Reviewed's managing editor of deals, Tercius Bufete, says that electronics will be in especially high demand. "It's no secret that the latest gaming consoles from PlayStation and Xbox are hard to come by due to the chip shortage," he explains. "It's not out of the realm of possibility that we'll see similar stock problems with the latest iPhones and iPads."

Below are some of the most popular gifts our experts predict will sell out on Black Friday if not before:

Tech and electronics

Gaming consoles

Toys

Home goods and apparel

When you should start holiday shopping

The sooner you start holiday shopping, the better.
The sooner you start holiday shopping, the better.

It's in your best interest to start holiday shopping ASAP, especially if you're shopping online. While Black Friday will always be a great time to shop for gifts, the unknown shipping times may mean that things won't arrive by Christmas.

Tercius recommends not waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to order priority products on your list. "You may save a bit more during Black Friday, but it's risky," he says. "While we see prices drop to their lowest prices ever during Black Friday, several retailers are already hosting comparable early sales to take advantage of." Browse our experts' curated list of the best early Black Friday deals to shop.

Holiday shipping deadlines 2021

The major delivery services—UPS, FedEx and USPS—have all released their holiday shipping deadlines for the 2021 season. These are the latest dates to ship by if you want your gifts to arrive by December 25.

UPS

  • UPS Ground: Check the UPS website

  • UPS 3 Day Select: December 21

  • UPS 2nd Day Air: December 22

  • UPS Next Day Air: December 23

FedEx

  • FedEx Ground/Home Delivery: December 15

  • FedEx Express Saver: December 21

  • FedEx 2Day: December 22

  • FedEx Overnight: December 23

USPS

  • USPS Retail Ground: December 15

  • USPS First-Class Mail: December 17

  • USPS Priority Mail: December 18

  • USPS Priority Mail Express: December 23

Last-minute gifts that will arrive on time

You have a lot of terrific options when it comes to digital gifts and subscription boxes.
You have a lot of terrific options when it comes to digital gifts and subscription boxes.

If you waited until the last minute or if you're worried about things arriving by the holiday, you can always opt for a gift that doesn't require shipping. There are plenty of great gifts you can order right up until Christmas, from subscription boxes to virtual gift cards. Below are some of our top picks:

Looking for even more gift ideas? Our experts at Reviewed have rounded up all of our favorite last-minute gifts.

Don’t get thwarted by shipping delays or sold-out favorites this holiday season. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter and get the product reviews, deals and holiday gift guides you need to start shopping now.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Holiday shopping 2021: When and why you should start early

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