3 tips to sidestep the supply chain struggle this holiday season

·4 min read
Patti Taggart stands in front of some of fully stocked shelves at her shop Tag Along Toys on Bank Street in Ottawa.  (Submitted by Patti Taggart - image credit)
Patti Taggart stands in front of some of fully stocked shelves at her shop Tag Along Toys on Bank Street in Ottawa. (Submitted by Patti Taggart - image credit)

This year it won't be the Grinch's fault if there are no gifts under the tree — global supply chain issues will likely be to blame — but Ottawa businesses say there are ways to avoid being left with only crumbs.

The Christmas creep started before Halloween with pushes to buy early or risk going without, but while it might be a recent concern for consumers, it's something retailers have anticipated for months.

Submitted Andreanne King
Submitted Andreanne King

Shop local

In February 2020, Andreanne King launched her site Ottawa Artisans in what turned out to be very fortuitous timing.

"I was looking at making a very local Etsy. My goal was to find a way to buy and sell any product to just your neighbours, so you wouldn't have to ship things. You could just go get them on their porch," King said.

The site started with about 20 local artisans, now a year and a half into the pandemic it has more than 600 registered. Ottawa Artisans has also been able to take advantage of high storefront vacancies to set up shops in both Bayshore and St. Laurent malls.

Locally made goods aren't stuck on ships waiting to be unloaded in a Vancouver port. Supply chain shortages have even inspired artisans to source their raw materials more locally, King said.

Submitted by Jessica Correa
Submitted by Jessica Correa

Have a greener Christmas

Just not shopping is the most obvious way to avoid the stress caused by supply chain issues, according to Jessica Correa, CEO of the social enterprise Random Acts of Green.

"The meaning of Christmas — not to be cliché — I think it's supposed to be spending quality time with people," Correa said.

That said, Correa says she understands gifts are an important way for people to show affection.

Her main message is to be "conscious" when choosing a gift, either buying local or buying an item the recipient will need, such as socks.

Experience gifts are a good way to show you have put thought into the gift, said Correa. She suggests planning an outdoor activity, a local getaway, or making a meal for mom.

"[Gift] what I like to call a random act of kindness, so an example might be paying to have grandma's driveway shovelled for the rest of the year," she said.

For parents worried about finding the perfect toy, Correa also suggests experiences over things.

She cited statistics from the British Heart Foundation, which runs charity shops in Britain, which she says are likely valid in Canada, too — most kids have four toys they've never played with and lose interest in most toys within 36 days.

Museum or movie passes might be less headache and less waste, she said.

Submitted by Patti Taggart
Submitted by Patti Taggart

Write to Santa early

Patti Taggart, owner of Tag Along Toys on Bank Street, says her suppliers first alerted her in early spring to expect shortages.

In January of this year, she thought she was really planning ahead when she ordered 75 different puzzles — 15 of them have arrived.

"It's hard as a small business because we work so hard at trying to please our customers because we've built relationships with them, and we really just cannot promise things this year," Taggart said.

She says this has changed who she buys from and she has discovered some new products she's excited about in Canada as a result, including a puzzle company in Vancouver and a woman in Nova Scotia that makes embroidery kits.

"I think a lot of people are hearing these things on the news and they're panicking a little bit and thinking, 'well, maybe I should shop early if I see things,'" Taggart said.

Customers have already adapted with busier than usual Saturdays for the time of year, she said. Her stock is good now, but she says she often only has a quarter of what she ordered.

Shortages include science kits, which come from Europe, but she is well stocked — and will likely remain well stocked — with smaller items like games and fidget spinners, which fit more easily into a shipping container.

But she has yet to take her own advice on shopping early. Taggart says she needs her son to come up with a list first.

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