You know how every year you promise to be more organised with your end-of-year gift shopping? Well, you may want to actually do something about it this year. The only thing 2021 is going to deliver is a steaming pile of mess.
Lockdown Impact on Our Shopping Behaviour
2021 was meant to be our recovery year after the disaster of 2020 (which, coincidentally, was supposed to be the recovery year after 2019). Unfortunately, that has not been the case. While vaccines for COVID-19 have been rolling out around the planet, it has not been fast enough to prevent further lockdowns, vaccine hesitation, and general delays in path back to ‘normal’.
For the record, I am double-dosed. So is EG Dad. The older spawnlings have had their first dose with their second dose booked later this month. EG Zaltu is too young for any COVID-19 vaccines right now so we are still exercising all the precautions to keep her safe. This includes a little less enthusiasm to run to the shops.
Apparently, we aren’t the only ones. In 2021, Australia’s online shopping industry increased by 35.3%, compared with an average of 14% for the four years previous. Most of us have quickly converted to online shopping, and 80% of Australian households have no intention of turning back. Consumers around the world have been feeling the same way, creating a ripple effect on world economies. In most cases, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing and many companies were probably preparing for a bit of increase. However, when you combine this with COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequent reduction in human resources to process most orders, you end up with a big problem.
Delays in Deliveries Throughout Australia
The original saying is ‘A Watched Kettle Never Boils‘ but the same can apply to our online purchases. Have you ordered something from Kmart or Booktopia or JB Hi-Fi recently? Did you notice the big warning, “DELAY IN DELIVERIES”? Thanks to a huge increase in parcels, Australia Post has been inundated with deliveries. To be honest, the national service was already showing signs of fatigue before COVID-19 hit our shores. As soon as lockdowns impacted the distribution centres, Australia Post was unable to keep up with demand. The Express Post guarantee has been suspended since 25 April 2020, with no suggestion on when that may lift. Most online businesses continue to suggest you order with express post but improve your chance of usual delivery times, and not express post conditions. You don’t even want to know what ‘regular post’ is like in some regions.
Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration whether the item is in stock or not. The first I noticed a delay in supply was with electronic goods in early 2020. When the first lockdowns hit Australia in March, every parent of school-aged children was racing to the stores for electronic devices and equipment to allow at-home learning (or at least those who could afford it–we’ll talk about the class divide during Lockdown Learning next time). Fortunately, lockdown didn’t last too long but the supply to Australia was disrupted with reduced flights coming into Australia, plus the delays with shipping containers around the world.
Unfortunately, things have not improved in 2021. Many big companies simply cannot restock their warehouses fast enough. From electronics, clothing, toys, books, and even big items like cars, everything is delayed. Delays in delivery lead to increases in delivery costs. And increase in costs leads to increase in prices. Reducing flights into Australia impacts more than passenger numbers; it also impacts postal deliveries included on the planes. The reduction in flight availability has put extra pressure on shipping containers to take up the slack. Except there are not enough shipping containers available and the cost for those has sky-rocketed. Add to this a COVID outbreak at one of China’s biggest ports in August 2021, and you have delays in supply of goods to Australia of up to 6-months.
Delays in International Deliveries
Okay, so how about ordering online direct from overseas? *sigh* Yeah, that’s not a great option either. You may have heard USPS (the national Postal Service for USA) has suspended all mail deliveries to Australia and New Zealand. The official suspension list has 22 countries and is suspected to grow further over the next few weeks. The USPS has also reduced its domestic deliveries AND is upping the costs of post within the USA. Even you if you made your order two weeks ago, your order is likely to be held up in the system. The suspension was announced recently but parcels were already being returned to senders back in mid-September. Deliveries from other regions is not much better, including both the EU and Asia.
Australians were warned last month through various social media channels about the impending crisis in deliveries. Essentially, the word went out to purchase your end-of-year presents early to avoid disappointment. Even if you did it last week, I don’t think you were fast enough. This could be disappointing for you but it can also be devastating to more vulnerable businesses.
For anyone who supported a project through Kickstarter or any number of crowdfunding sites like it, delays are now considered the norm. Many projects are excluding postal costs, with no idea how to prepare for the continuing spikes in shipping container prices. Word amongst various online groups has set the average delay for delivery to 3-months, however, many projects have been delayed MUCH longer. Tabletops games is one area where delivery is taking an extra year to fulfill. Kickstarter is aware of this but has yet to release any official stats (and is unlikely to do so).
And if you are hoping to take advantage of any Black Friday sales or Amazon bargains, think long and hard about your online purchases. Delivery is still going to be your biggest killer and since we are all now aware of the problem, many companies are unwilling to rush a solution once they have your money. The number of scams with online purchases has increased during the COVID-19, especially for ‘Failed Deliveries’ and ‘Not the Right Item’.
What Can I Do?
Honestly, not a lot. Perhaps this is a good time to take a long look at our consumer behaviour. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give presents at the end of the year. Au contraire, the Evil Genius Family loves celebrating Summer Solstice and giving presents to say thanks to those who brought sunshine to our lives.
This year, we are looking to local businesses (not just local to us but local to our family and friends). Perhaps a picnic basket to celebrate our release from lockdown. Perhaps contribution towards a car service so we can all escape for a day or two. Petrol vouchers, re-usable face masks, anything like this. Family/Friends: you have been warned.
Digital purchases are also a good bet. Subscriptions to Disney+ and Netflix have both increased over the past 12-months and are likely to continue with popularity. There are other services available as well as many online subscriptions to educational services. I recently signed up for a course with Domestika for graphic design. I can take the course at my own leisure, which is a gift in itself while the spawnlings are at home with Lockdown Learning. If you’ve been lucky enough to score a console, digital games are also a great option (especially when supporting indie developers).
I like the idea to pay our gift forward and donate to charities that have been working overtime during the pandemic. Mental health services have been struggling to provide additional therapists. Refugee centres have been fighting to provide work to their refugee staff and members. There are thousands of groups like these all around Australia and I would be more than happy to see a donation go to them on our behalf.
If you do want to buy something special for that someone special, I would call up the stores now. Ask if they have stock, how much stock, and whether they will hold or order in for you. And be prepared for Plan B. Maybe Plan C and D too.
Let’s face it: COVID-19 is not done with us yet. And in the grand scheme of things, delays with online purchases for luxury items is the least of our troubles. I still think it is important to celebrate surviving this year (*ahem* the last three years, thankyou very much) but I think we can all handle a little delay in the delivery.
Categories: General Evil Genius
Evil Genius Mum
Evil Genius Mum
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