Tech toy on your list? Why the microchip shortage could hinder your holiday shopping

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Better Business Bureau is warning of a microchip shortage that could leave you with fewer gifts under the Christmas tree this year.

This means electronics, toys and some other products will be in short supply this holiday season — if they’re not already.

The computer chip shortage has been one of the most far-reaching, since the chips are a critical component in automobiles and other manufactured goods.

In April, the Associated Press reported that the shortage has been rippling through various markets since last year, making it difficult for schools to buy enough laptops for remote learning and creating a scramble to find the latest video game consoles. Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the shortage could cause a cut in production of the iPhone 13.

According to the BBB, the shortage could also result in fewer holiday deals and higher-than-normal prices.

The agency recommends that you get your holiday shopping done soon or risk not being able to find that perfect holiday gift. Black Friday could even be too late, the agency said.

“If you find it, grab it right now,” said Leslie Blackwell, the director of public affairs at BBB serving central Virginia.

One of the owners of World of Mirth, a toy store in Carytown, told WRIC that the shop is already dealing with plenty of backorders, and that some vendors aren’t taking any more orders for the rest of the year.

Blackwell explained that the microchip shortage affects even the simplest electronic items, such as toys with lights and sounds.

“Whether it is a microchip or a potato chip, there’s seems a supply shortage going on right now,” Blackwell said.

The shortage is compounded by a lack of workers, floating traffic jams, a stressed trucking industry and factory backlogs.

If you want to stick to your budget and score all the gifts on your list, the BBB is offering these tips:

  • Know what products might be in short supply. Tech items all use microchips, meaning many manufacturers are already struggling to keep up with demand. Identify must-haves on your holiday list that are impacted by the shortage.
  • Shop earlier than usual. This year, don’t hold out for Black Friday to start holiday shopping. Certain microchip-dependent products may be sold out by November, according to some retailers.
  • When you find a good deal, buy it. Good deals on products will be scarce this year, so take advantage of a good price when you find one.
  • Don’t include sales in your holiday shopping budget. Many retailers have had to pay higher prices for inventory due to supply chain problems, and that means fewer bargain prices may be offered this year. In fact, many products that use microchips are already more expensive, so budget accordingly. “This might mean buying fewer presents or organizing a secret Santa-style gift exchange,” the BBB said.
  • Develop a backup plan. Because microchip technology is so common in household items, some products are already on backorder into 2022. You may need a Plan B if you can’t find a gift you hoped to buy. Keep in mind that the shortages only affect certain kinds of gifts. Plush toys, outdoor toys, and action figures that don’t have electronic features should stay in stock and remain reasonably priced this year.
  • Beware of scams. Whenever a product is in high demand, such as the hottest toy of the holiday season, scams abound. “Remember, deals that sound too good to be true probably are,” stated the BBB. Also, watch out for counterfeit products and always research new vendors to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate business before you buy anything or provide your personal information, such as your credit card number.

“When you’ve got shortages, who comes out of the woodworks but the fraudsters,” Blackwell said.

For more tips, visit BBB.org/Holiday-Tips.

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