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Christmas Decorations are in Short Supply

And then, there weren’t enough lights for the tree.

Holiday décor is selling out faster than usual in many stores with two weeks left before Christmas, as Americans fill dark, increasingly cold pandemic days by buying up more lights, trees and ornaments at a rapid pace.

Walmart, Costco, At Home, and other retailers known for selling holiday items didn’t anticipate the pandemic-fueled surge when buying most products for the season nearly a year ago, say executives and people familiar with the situation. In some cases, executives made purchase decisions just as coronavirus-related restrictions took hold and trimmed orders.

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The imbalance, which has left some locations with bare shelves, is a stark example of how the pandemic has disrupted retail strategies and strained supply chains during the critical shopping season.

Retailers generally can’t augment supplies for holiday items at the last minute. Artificial trees, string lights and other seasonal products are often made nearly a year in advance in Chinese factories that need to plan production schedules and allow time to ship goods globally, retail executives say.

At Home Group in the spring cut its holiday-related orders by about 15% compared with last year, said Lee Bird, chief executive of the home-decor chain with more than 200 big-box stores. At the time, all its stores were closed because of pandemic lockdowns. A few weeks later, based on signs of a surge in home-goods sales, the retailer upped its order by about 10%, which was still lower than last year, he said. “It was such a dire outlook, we ended up shrinking our buy for holiday,” he said.

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Overall that has helped profits at the chain, Mr. Bird said, because it won’t need to discount products as it did last year and sales have skyrocketed since its stores reopened.

“If I could do life over again, I’d change some things, and one would be buying more for this season,” Mr. Bird said.

At Walmart, the country’s largest retailer by revenue, merchants almost a year ago bought slightly more holiday décor than they did the previous year, based on economic forecasts and other indicators at the time, said a spokeswoman.

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But demand has surpassed those estimates and came earlier than last year, said a person familiar with the situation. Walmart would like to have more to sell, the person said, and is about a week ahead of its typical holiday sales patterns…   The Wall Street Journal

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