This year could be very different…
It’s probably no surprise to learn that what has been one of the strangest years in recent history could culminate in a very strange Christmas. Our nation is reeling from an economy that was crashed by COVID lockdowns, the potential second wave of a pandemic which will result in more economic damage, a broken supply chain, civil unrest, and a presidential election that will almost certainly be hotly contested, regardless of who “wins.”
As Selco likes to remind us, there’s not a whole lot we can do about “big circle” problems like the ones listed above. We need to focus on the “small circle” – things we can do something about, like our response to the crises listed above.
So let’s talk about the upcoming holiday season and the ways that this year could be very different.
Gifts may be difficult to acquire.
You need only to look at the bare spots in your local Target store to see that we could be looking at a shortage of desired gifts. Due to supply chain issues, stores are not getting anywhere near the same amount of merchandise they used to get. That means that once the Christmas rush begins, the things that ARE available could sell out quickly. And it also means that you may have a lot more trouble than usual ticking items off your family members’ Christmas lists.
Retailers are quickly trying to adapt to social distancing rules while still making a buck, which means even more sales than usual will take place online.
“What we’re going to see is that because of how frictionless and easy digital commerce is to use and how safe it is, it becomes the new way of paying and the new way of shopping — especially as the pandemic continues and this behavior becomes habitual,” she said.
The bottom line: As the holiday shopping season rapidly approaches, expect things to be different this year.
“Now, most every brick-and-mortar retailer of note will close for Thanksgiving, possibly tipping the hat to a values reset around family,” PYMNTS reported. “In fact the values reset around several issues may be one of the defining characteristics of Holiday 2020.”
“It’s not hard to imagine Black Friday or even Cyber Monday using charity donations as consumer motivation to shop,” the report stated. “Especially since Black Friday pricing has been in effect pretty much since the beginning of April. Discounts have been an everyday occurrence instead of an event.” (source)
But problems with the US Postal Service could make ordering gifts to be delivered by mail a tricky endeavor. Delays began back in the summer and have continued well into October. (This article provides additional information about the slow-down of deliveries.) This could cause problems from two different angles:
- First, will you receive your order on time?
- Secondly, will the packages you mail out get to the recipients on time?
I strongly urge you to purchase any gifts you’re planning on buying early for the 2020 holiday season. This is not the year to be a last-minute shopper or you may end up purchasing a strange hodgepodge of the items nobody else wanted to buy.
We might also be looking at food shortages.
Many parts of the country are already experiencing some difficulty with the food supply chain as is evidenced in the comments section of this article. The supply has been compromised since last March and things improved a little, but most places are still not back to the pre-lockdown normal levels of inventory.
What’s more, grocery stores are already preparing for both the second wave and holiday shoppers with so-called “pandemic pallets” of goods that they expect to be in high demand…and despite these preparations, they’re still expecting shortages.
What is a pandemic pallet?
Grocery stores are stocking pallets with items they fear may run low in the coming months. Keeping these pallets stored in the warehouses, most of them are stocked with cleaning items and paper products, cold medicines, dry goods, and food staples like rice, pasta, and legumes – all the things that they ran out of quickly the last time around. And, with the holidays right around the corner, many stores are stockpiling holiday foods like cranberry sauce.
The article went on to say that grocery stores are not as sparse as they were in the beginning of the pandemic. Nevertheless, shortages are still expected…
Our advice? Get your supplies while you can. If you wait to buy your groceries for holiday meals at holiday time, you’ll have difficulty finding what you want. And consider adapting your holiday meal to focus more on shelf-stable ingredients. Here’s an example of a holiday dinner straight from the pantry. Our favorite vendor of long-term emergency food also has their supplies back in stock if you want to invest in some items that will be good on your shelves for years to come. Here are some of the long-term items I recommend.
Money could be a problem.
Millions of jobs that were deemed “temporary layoffs” have disappeared forever. Many businesses, small and large, have closed their doors. Competition is fierce for the few jobs that are currently available and we’re right on the cusp of a wave of evictions. Government assistance ended recently and the second round of stimulus payments has been held up in Congress.
It’s almost a certainty that a majority of families will be facing financial difficulties this holiday season. My recommendation is that you speak with your family now and set realistic expectations for gifts, travel, and get-togethers so that everyone is on the same page. Focus on traditions instead of on gifts.
And for goodness sakes, if that stimulus money comes in “just in time for Christmas” I’d strongly advise you not to spend it frivolously. The urge will certainly be there but remember, we could all be dealing with money problems that are far more serious than a less spectacular Christmas than normal.
We could be in the midst of another lockdown.
While some parts of the country are gradually reopening, the numbers of those diagnosed with COVID are beginning to spike again. Regardless of whether or not you believe COVID is a physical threat, it’s pretty much irrefutable that it’s an economic threat. If the cases continue to increase we will be facing another lockdown.
What if that lockdown continues throughout the holiday season? It’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to think that large family gatherings, religious services, and Christmas parties will be banned.
Not only would this be potentially the final nail in the coffin of the travel industry, but it would also be incredibly detrimental to people psychologically. The idea of watching long-held holiday traditions crumble could cause a lot of mental stress, and those who are already dealing with the effects of isolation will be the hardest hit.
Then again, so many people are sick of the pandemic and the lockdowns that there’s a good chance they’ll simply refuse to cooperate. This could lead to legal problems as well as an increase in post-holiday COVID cases. Expect to see a lot of Christmas-shaming and people snitching on their neighbors for hosting family members.
Of course, if the numbers go up dramatically after the holidays, you can expect the lockdowns to expand to even more draconian levels than they already have. (Again – your opinion on COVID-19 notwithstanding, we’re talking about how the government’s interpretation of the numbers will affect you.)
Begin thinking now about how you intend to celebrate the holidays. Will you be relying on technology like Zoom to see our families and attend worship services? Are your family members geographically close enough that you can still get together? Just as with gifts, it’s important to set the expectations of your family early so that nobody is blindsided with the prospect of an empty table a week before Christmas.
What do you expect to see this holiday season?
Have you considered what the 2020 holiday season might look like? Are you dialing back your budget? Have you already begun Christmas shopping? Have you discussed plans with family members? Do you have a backup plan if your family get-together suddenly becomes illegal?
Let’s discuss it in the comments.