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Supply-chain issues show need to buy American

It’s hard to believe that today already brings the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

Unlike last year, when we struggled with restrictions brought on by COVID-19, area residents eagerly have been anticipating the opportunity to, once again, experience holiday “door buster” bargains, early bird free gifts with purchases and even just shopping in-person among the crowds.

So, as we might deal with clogged-up store aisles this year, apparently now we must worry about clogged-up shipping ports, too.

Swamped U.S. ports on America’s coasts remain backed up with enormous cargo containers stacked up and no one to unload them, or with ships carrying all your holiday dream gifts anchored at sea for days or weeks at a time.

Experts say the unprecedented container ship traffic jam blamed for driving up consumer prices began with the COVID-19 pandemic and hasn’t rebounded yet. Even a plan announced last month by President Joe Biden to establish around-the-clock operations at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest, has fallen flat.

L.A. port Executive Director Gene Seroka last week said the sprawling complex has “24/7 capability,” but a shortage of truck drivers and nighttime warehouse workers pose problems in establishing a nonstop schedule, along with getting importers to embrace expanded hours.

“It’s an effort to try to get this entire orchestra of supply-chain players to get on the same calendar,” he said. Among thousands of importers, “we’ve had very few takers to date.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said going to a 24 hour-a-day schedule at the busiest port in the Western Hemisphere “is, of course, not flipping the switch. There are so many players, even just on the grounds of port.”

So, just what does that mean for Christmas shopping plans, especially when it comes to retail supplies of popular or high-demand toys, unique electronics or other designer clothes and home goods?

Indeed, it could be bleak.

Never fear. Believe it or not, there is a way to get around this problem.

Rather than stressing over the possibility of missing out on the foreign-made gifts you’re seeking, concentrate instead on what can be guaranteed — like gifts made in America, or better yet, locally made gifts.

Numerous local markets sell handmade Amish products, not to mention nearby wineries, cheese factories and other food outlets that make great gifts. Trumbull Art Gallery on Warren’s Courthouse Square offers beautiful locally created artwork and jewelry.

Daffin’s Candies offers wonderful sweet treats. All American Cards & Comics offers great gifts for the collectors. And there are so many more local options.

If you’re seeking fine jewelry, Warren’s Thumm and Co. offers beautiful watches, and jewelry is always a wonderful gift, available at local shops like Thom Duma Fine Jewelers and Komara’s.

If you’re still not certain you’ll find what you’re looking for, here is other option: a night out.

Tickets to a show at the newly renovated Robins Theatre are a great idea, or how about gift cards for local restaurants that can represent an enjoyable evening out come January after all the anxiety of Christmas shopping grinds to a halt and things calm down.

The bottom line is this: No matter where you shop or how much you spend, make sure there are at least a few American-made items on your gift list. You’ll help yourself by avoiding supply-chain importing issues, and at the same time, you’ll also be supporting American workers.

And here’s another thought. It’s not a bad thing to “think small.” Just one day after today’s “Black Friday” comes “Small Business Saturday.” That small business shopping “holiday” launched in 2010, encouraging consumers to support small, local businesses. It’s a great reminder not to forget the small businesses that help keep our community’s economy humming along, particularly because they live and work right here, employing area residents.

This holiday season, the best way to guarantee that your gifts aren’t clogged up by supply-chain struggles is to buy American and shop local.

editorial@vindy.com

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