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Central Coast shoppers coming out early with concerns over shipping delays

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Early bird shoppers are out in many retail centers and small stores on the Central Coast.

The tradition of waiting until after Thanksgiving to start holiday shopping is getting tipped backward this year due to the COVID slow down and altered holiday season habits from 2020.

"I don't think people should wait. It is a different story this year.  It is very important to shop early," said Salt Boutique owner Robin Baron in downtown Santa Barbara. She has 40 years of retail experience.

There are also fears of shipping disruptions that have been taking place for several weeks, especially items on delayed cargo ships.

Store owners in downtown Santa Barbara say they have been seeing customers with serious buying intentions for the last couple of weeks, and early holiday specials are already posted.

Many locations have decorations up and flashy holiday displays in the windows.

"I have put a lot of money and effort into this Christmas because we have lost two Christmases  and that really hurts our business so it is kind of like, put everything in and hope for the best," said Baron. "I really hope people come down and shop local."

The stores with stock are promoting their instant purchase options, at a time when sought-after items might be on a ship docked offshore in the Los Angeles waters or in a container that has not been sorted out or delivered due to the backlog at the port. The shortage of truck drivers has also been a problem.

"We heard about that but we are not letting it stop us.  We are still trying to support the economy and go shopping," said shopper Jean Sapiro.

Hearing of the delay issues, Dannell Stuart said, "I do want to get ahead of it because I am worried that  we are not going to be able to find anything."

In some cases, shoppers have said they were picking up items before Halloween. That includes gifts and decorations.

The empty shelves at some times and shortages in other areas have been warning signs for weeks.

"You can't get anything anymore, you can't get a car, there are lines at the grocery store, everything is backed up," said Stuart.     

It is still unclear what kind of sales will be featured this year. Often the early rush of buying comes with the discovery of discounts of over 50 percent at many stores in the days following Thanksgiving.   

At the Salt Boutique there's been a shift in products for sale. In addition to the line of women's apparel, there's a new children's section with a variety of unique unisex outfits, shoes and books.

The store also has locally made jewelry, candles, sunglasses and hats. After some customer requests a line of pajamas has been added as well.

Later in the shopping season, retailers say they offer more deep deals for the last few days before Christmas. That could be just what they need to close out the year and survive unusual economic times.

Already in some cases, "out of stock" signs have become a problem for shoppers both on line and in person.  Store owners say that will be a consideration when making purchase decisions. They advise the time to buy may be now, not later, if you see something you like.

"Definitely, just because we don't know how the pandemic will be in the next few months and I want to make sure everything gets here on time," said shopper Christina La Pham.

The National Toy Association says they expect to see a possible drop in the variety of choices you might expect for the holidays because of delivery problems. The group says some items might not arrive until early 2022.

With that, the National Retail Federation says holiday sales during November and December will grow between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent compared to 2020.

Retailers are also looking at the big picture and say this holiday season has the potential to be encouraging in a recovering economy.

"We need more people to come and open up stores we don't need people closing," said Baron.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.


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