Disruptions in the global supply chain are resulting in product shortages for retailers across the United States.

Labor shortages at checkout stands, empty shelves in brick-and-mortar locations and delayed orders from online retailers. No matter where retailers and consumers turn, they face COVID-19’s impact. Despite hopes earlier this year that 2021 would see a return to some semblance of a normal holiday season, consumers remain worried about the impact of COVID on their holiday plans. The past few months have shown that retailers again need to stay prepared and flexible—and be ready for anything.

Part of the challenge for retailers will be their own complex supply chains. Consumers likely don’t realize how a single weak link can cause a bottleneck thousands of miles away. But that’s the reality for retailers (especially amid the pandemic) as they simultaneously deal with shoppers’ mercurial preferences.

Those preferences can change at a moment’s notice, even in normal times. Most significantly, where and how US consumers spend money this holiday season depends largely on the number of domestic COVID-19 cases—which doesn’t necessarily coincide with pandemic surges around the world. This means that even if things look brighter as 2021 draws to a close and shoppers spend a lot in stores, demand could outstrip overseas manufacturing capabilities.

Even if they don’t understand all the particulars—i.e., everything that could go wrong—59 percent of US consumers are worried that their holiday plans could be disrupted. That’s according to a survey by BRG Retail conducted as the Delta variant began to rage this summer.

 It’s possible that percentage could increase come Black Friday. But as we look to the holiday shopping season, key issues are in play when it comes to retailing.

Read the full article in ThinkSet.