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Don't wait until Black Friday to start your holiday shopping, retail experts say

Concerns about the supply chain crisis, inadequate stock on items and package delivery delays are pushing people to hit the stores earlier this year.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Have you been out shopping lately? If you have, you likely have seen people getting a head start on their holiday shopping.

Retail experts say that's a smart thing to do and that waiting to cross items off your list could mean you'll miss out.

Concerns about the supply chain crisis, inadequate stock on items and package delivery delays are sending holiday shoppers to malls and store websites well ahead of Black Friday.

"Today I had the day off because it's Veterans Day so I thought it was a good day to come out to go Christmas shopping. I also heard you need to shop earlier because they may not have all the items you want," said Ursula Camp, a shopper at the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota. 

"My husband and I agreed and we said we don't want to do the last minute, stressed out shopping and then there's the whole thing about things being delayed, shipping and all that," said Katharine Wagner of Bradenton.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was the Grinch that stole Christmas and this year, experts say the December holiday is at risk once again for various chain-reaction reasons.

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A persistent supply chain crisis, including a warehouse worker and truck driver shortage, has worsened due to the increase in demand driven by holiday shopping.

The situation has led shoppers to try to avoid the bottleneck. They have trekked to local malls and department stores and even caused a boom in retail traffic.

"A lot of our retail stores saw the best October they have ever had this year even compared to 2019 when our center hit its ultimate high," said Lauren Clark, Marketing Director, Mall at University Town Center. "We are seeing people shop early and we recommend that people shop early. The brands and the stores are telling shoppers that some of those items will not be here after Black Friday."

Local small businesses, like specialty stores, are also seeing some early holiday shopping windfall. Gift stores like Shelly's Gift and Christmas Boutique in Sarasota, where it's Christmastime all year round, have been lucky with their inventory and are fully stocked. 

They too have seen a large influx of shoppers.

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"If we did our October numbers, were doubled from last year and also with November so far. Having our open house and having the kind of sale that we did, it was amazing, there were so many people here," said Tracy Witzer of Shelly's Gift and Christmas Boutique.

While the pandemic is also sending shoppers online, experts suggest trying to help your local businesses owners by heading to their websites.

"I'm a shopper so, that's my first love but I do shop online as well if I can't find things in the store then I will go online," said Phyllis Mifsud.

To avoid delivery delays, retail experts also say to try to pick up your items at the store's closest location to you.

They also say if you are not sure what to get someone for the holidays you can send a gift card.