Fears of holiday gift shortages may be unfounded

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Not even the coronavirus can put a chill on Christmas. Santa and his elves are working feverishly to get all the gifts out on time for the holiday.

Memories of empty shelves at the beginning of the outbreak are for the most part faded. Analysts predict that once again the Grinch will not be able to steal Christmas.

"I don't see a lot of the strain that people anticipated," said Sheldon Jacobson, a data analyst with the University of Illinois. "Like I said, that a lot of the gloom and doom that people anticipated is just not happening."

Jacobson's outlook backs the optimism of many retailers.

"We've certainly seen a significant uptick in inventory," said Jonathan Gold of the National Retail Federation. "You know, imports are up significantly over the past couple of months."

Gold recalls when the pandemic caused factories to close and production came to a halt. Fears of a shortage caused a run on toilet paper and other essentials. However, market forces have largely adjusted.

"People tend to think worst-case, rather than what human behavior will dictate. And worst case and human behavior are not always the same," Jacosbson said.

The shortage that does remain has nothing to do with Christmas, but remains a critical one.

Masks and other personal protective equipment remain in limited supply.

Jacobson says our production capacity for masks is just a couple billion per year. He says the demand is a couple of billion per month.

Yet he says no company is willing to take the risk to produce that many masks and end up with extra inventory.

"When you have critical issues like that, the federal government has to step in and take the risk. And that's something we're not seeing with PPEs," he said.

Everything else points to a good year for Santa.

The Retail Federation encourages everyone to shop early to help Santa get gifts to everyone on time.

"Earlier shopping will ensure that consumers will be able to get their goods and having them ready for the holiday season," Gold said.

Just a reminder: capacity will be limited this season at all stores. So if you plan to shop in person, do it early to avoid the crowds.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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