What to Buy (and Skip) in November 2021

Laura McMullenNov 1, 2021

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Are your mailbox, inbox and social media feed suddenly stuffed with holiday shopping promotions? Welcome to November! This month, expect plenty of deals — and a complication.

That big, fat variable is the supply-chain bottleneck. While these issues are global in scale, they’ll likely affect your household shopping list. You may find that the items you want are harder to locate and more expensive and take longer to be delivered than usual.

Here’s more about how supply-chain issues may affect your shopping this month, including which products to buy and skip.

First, a note about holiday shopping

For holiday gifts, you’ll likely snag promotions on stuff that didn’t sell last year, says Lauren Beitelspacher, associate professor and chair of the marketing division at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. But, she adds: “The chances of us getting a deal on the hot product for this holiday season is pretty slim.” After all, demand is high, and supply is low. Retailers don’t need to slash prices too much.

About that low supply — we’ll likely see product shortages, says Maria Rodas, assistant professor of business administration at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Rather than panic, she says shoppers should plan ahead. If you really want something in particular before the holidays, buy it early this month.

Buy: Big-ticket electronics

You can’t talk about holiday shopping without mentioning Black Friday, which typically translates to some of the year’s biggest sales on televisions, gaming systems, Apple products and other electronics. While Black Friday is technically Nov. 26 and Cyber Monday is Nov. 29, Best Buy, Amazon and other retailers have already started delivering deals.

But Rodas predicts that “the discounts are not going to be as deep as in previous years.” Again, “because demand is greater than supply.”

This year, Black Friday is best for the flexible shopper. If you’re looking for a specific product and must have it by the holidays, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment by waiting until the end of the month. Retailers may not have what you want or be able to get it to you in time, Rodas says.

But if you’re interested in generally browsing deals on electronics and their arrival isn’t time-sensitive, Rodas says, “waiting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is still a good strategy.”

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Skip: Holiday-themed stuff you don’t need

Excuse the Scrooge-like advice, but holiday decorations, ornaments, wrapping paper and artificial Christmas trees will face the same supply-chain bottleneck that’s driving up prices on other stuff, Rodas says.

If you need a new tree or holiday item — and are OK with spending a little more than in previous years — then buying it now gives you a better chance of receiving it in time than if you waited until December, Rodas says. But if you can hold off on new holiday-themed purchases, she says this is the year to do so.

Buy: Off-season and off-size gear

“Now is the time of year when retailers are trying to clear all their inventory,” Beitelspacher says. “There’s a lot of off-season stuff that’s going to be heavily, heavily discounted.”

These off-season items may include grills and deck furniture, for example. Rodas points out that Halloween costumes and decorations are now off-season, too, so expect “huge discounts” on those items.

As for clothes, look for sales on transitional fall and late summer pieces, Beitelspacher says. Think linen pants, sundresses and light jackets.

Retailers also want to offload “off-size” clothes by the end of the year, she says. While size-medium clothes often sell out by this time, “now would be the time to find the extra-small or the extra-large sizes at heavy discounts.”

Other shopping tips for this month

Buy Thanksgiving groceries ASAP. Remember, you’ll likely see some empty shelves this month. So, Rodas suggests starting your Thanksgiving grocery shopping soon to get ahead of supply shortages and avoid scrambling.

Pick up nonperishable items, as well as those that you’re able to freeze or buy frozen, like a turkey. Also, she adds: “If possible, try to buy seasonal and local so you don’t have to deal with the issues of the global supply bottleneck.”

Shop locally. Compared with large retailers, Beitelspacher says local stores are at greater risk of going under because they have less bank and government support while facing the same supply-chain issues.

“If we don’t support those local businesses, especially in the fourth quarter, we may not see them again in our hometowns next year,” she says.

Beitelspacher says these businesses can be perfect for buying locally crafted or community-specific gear.

Buy directly from the manufacturer. If you can’t find the products you want at stores, you may find inventory available from the manufacturers themselves.

Rodas says many manufacturers are “skipping the middleman and trying to sell directly to consumers.” Her example: If Walmart is sold out of a certain toy, like a coveted set of Lego bricks, then try shopping directly on Lego’s website.

Bonus: Snag a sammy. If you’ve worked up an appetite thinking about deals, delivery times and supply-chain disruptions, you’re in luck: National Sandwich Day is Nov. 3.

In years past, sandwich joints such as Subway and Jack in the Box have offered promotions for just this occasion. Check for National Sandwich Day deals on the websites and social media channels of both national and local sandwich shops. Maybe you’ll be able to enjoy a discounted hoagie while crafting your shopping game plan.