Prof. Jen Blackhurst (UI photo)

Some listeners might have thought she was crying wolf, when they heard a logistics and supply chain expert from the University of Iowa say to buy their Christmas gifts back in July.

The predictions were correct from Jen Blackhurst, a UI professor of business analytics, and we’re now seeing products ranging from video games to sirloin steaks have vanished from store shelves.

“There’s labor shortages, there’s transportation shortages, you see in the ports coming into the U.S., massive backups and delays,” Blackhurst says. “It’s exacerbated and has become more severe over time.”

Many retailers still haven’t recovered from the complications of the pandemic and she says the perfect storm she warned about four months ago is hitting us now, and hard. Plus, it’s not just products we wanted to put under the tree that are hard to find.

“What we’re seeing is potential shortages in packaging materials, so, do we have the aluminum, the steel, the resin, even glass bottles? How readily available are those?” Blackhurst says. “We’re seeing a variety of items in short supply.”

If you ignored the warnings and still haven’t completed — or even started — your Christmas shopping, never fear, there’s still plenty of products out there to buy, however…

“You might not get the exact item that you want, but know that the retailers, the manufacturers, they’re doing everything they can to get products in your hands,” Blackhurst says. “I would say just be flexible and if you see something that you’re thinking about, go ahead and pick it up now.”

She implores shoppers -not- to resort to panic buying, like happened in recent months with essentials from cleaning products to hand sanitizer.

“In terms of stockpiling and what we saw last year with toilet paper, that’s just going to make it worse,” Blackhurst says. “Stay calm and eventually, things will get back to normal, but if you see the item you want, go ahead and pick it up now.”

So just when will things be “back to normal” for us? Blackhurst predicts it will be “at least well into 2022” before the supply chain again has its many links aligned.