Parents could face fewer choices and higher prices while doing their back-to-school shopping this year, with a supply shortage coming just weeks before students head back to class -- most in person.
Some families have delayed the dreaded money drop on school supplies due to financial hardships related to the coronavirus pandemic, but with COVID closing factories and slowing the supply chain on many products, expect reduced options for anything with a microchip.
That includes items from computers to speakers, headphones to TVs.
The Chromebook is popular because many schools use it, but stores could not get them at all last year. They're in stock now, but it's unknown how long the supply will last.
While retailers have plenty of coffee pots, microwaves, fans, air conditioners, and air purifiers for the dorm room, shoppers should expect lower inventory on traditional popular picks.
So for backpack brands or sports equipment, get out or order online -- the earlier the better.
Experts said they expect demand will be also high on products like shoes, stationery, and some gadgets.
While we won't see major shortages, they believe consumers may have less choice because of the supply chain issues.
The National Retail Federation says consumers plan to spend this year as students return to class, and on average, families will spend $848.90 on items such as clothing and supplies.
That's $59 more than last year.
Spending is expected to reach $37.1 billion, up from $33.8 billion last year, an all-time high.
Some teachers and families say they're looking forward to in-person learning, and they've been shopping earlier so they can be prepared for whatever happens this school year.