Mark Tritton's advice for holiday shoppers this year is simple, yet pointed: Shop early and in person.
Tritton, 56, has an up-close view of the country's ongoing supply chain issues. He's the CEO of retail chain Bed Bath & Beyond, and like most U.S. retailers, he's spent the past year and a half dealing with industrywide complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year, the rapid spread of the coronavirus caused global industry shutdowns and a steep drop in consumer demand. This holiday season, demand is back— but retailers are still playing catch-up on supply, which is why Tritton urges holiday shoppers to start earlier than normal this year.
"Every retailer will tell you that at this point that they want more inventory," he tells CNBC Make It. "My advice would be: Always shop early."
In a typical year, Tritton says, most retailers run out of supply sometime in December, due to the high demand of the holiday shopping season. This year, the supply shortages will likely be compounded by a "compromised" shipping system, leading to hefty e-commerce delays, he notes.
For Bed Bath & Beyond, the biggest source of those delays is getting merchandise off cargo shipping containers at ports and onto store shelves. Booming demand means few retailers can get their products out of the ports in a timely manner.
Put together, it means that if you're on a schedule or eyeing any specific items, you should consider ordering your items for in-store pickup or simply shopping in person this year.
"Bottom line, pick it up in the store or come into the store and find what you need," Tritton says.
Tritton took the helm at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2019, just months before the pandemic hit, and quickly had to close all of its more than 1,500 brick-and-mortar stores for 10 weeks in March 2020.
Last year's holiday season was rough, too: Bed Bath and Beyond reported a double-digital decline in sales during the fiscal fourth quarter. Online sales predictably rose, but a corresponding drop in in-store foot traffic and rise in store closures impacted the company's results, CNBC reported in April.
The turmoil didn't end there. As recently as late September, Bed Bath & Beyond's shares dropped due to both supply chain issues and a sharp rise in nationwide inflation, which have similarly affected most retailers across the country.
But Tritton says he feels comfortable heading into this year's holiday season. Earlier this month, the company's stock rebounded amid a slew of new announcements including a third-party digital marketplace, a partnership with grocery chain Kroger and a stock buyback program.
Tritton also says he's working on a turnaround plan for the company, including store renovations and new in-house brands. "Our vision is to really make it easy for customers to feel at home and provide the right thing for their home needs," he says.
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