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ST. LOUIS – Forget December, if you want the most wonderful time of the year to be holly and jolly, you better get shopping while it’s hot and humid.

“As it relates to the holidays, now is the time because all of the things are going to be impacted. The factories. The warehouses. The trucks,” UMSL Professor Mitch Millstein said.

Millstein teaches supply chain and analytics at the University of Missouri St. Louis Business School. He says nearly a year and a half into the pandemic, companies, and consumers are still navigating a changing landscape.

“The disruption that occurred last year is like a wave. We’re in the wave. The wave is going through the supply chain now. I was talking to a Vice President of Operations just the other day. He’s working in the warehouse because he’s got people out and his warehouse manager is packing orders,” Millstein said.

Whether it’s workers or widgets, the shortages are real and quick solutions aren’t always realistic.

“What happened overseas is containers ended up in the wrong place. This is really a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Because we stopped ordering them or put a stop to the orders, they had to go someplace. They ended up in the wrong place. This is still being sorted out today,” Millstein said.

“Consumers are showing us they are worried about inflation and the cost of goods going up,” said Rod Sides, vice-chair and US leader of retail and distribution for Deloitte.

He points to back-to-school shopping as an indicator of how the holiday hustle will function.

“Folks moved earlier in the season because they were worried about stockouts. We’re going to see the exact same thing happen with the holiday,” Sides said.

The experts say if you want to make sure your gifts wind up under the tree, start your holiday shopping now.

“We’re going to have to think not days ahead, not I’m going to shop on Black Friday for what I want on Christmas because that’s a month ahead of time and I get great details. We’ve got to go a couple of months,” Millstein said.

Shoppers we spoke with say they’ll take that advice to heart.