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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After more than a year of pandemic-related abstinence, people are in a spending mood this holiday season. The problem is there's going to be less stuff to buy.

Why it matters: Global supply chain logjams have left many retailers with empty shelves. And the bottlenecks are getting worse, not better, Bloomberg reports.

  • For giddy consumers, that pent-up holiday excitement could turn into disappointment by December if they can't buy the toys and gifts they want.
  • And for those lucky enough to snag the perfect gift, they'll likely pay more.

The big picture: After putting away extra savings for a year and a half, consumers say they will spend an average of $1,447 on gifts, travel and entertainment this year — 20% more than last year, according to PWC's holiday outlook survey.

  • Even compared with the pre-pandemic 2019 season, spending will be up 13%, as consumers finally feel free to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

Yes, but: There could be slim pickings of everything from toys and clothing to electronics and cars.

  • It's the same mismatch of supply and demand hitting every aspect of our lives.
  • As The Atlantic's Derek Thompson put it: "This is the Everything Shortage."
  • E-commerce sales, which rose about 40% in 2020, are up another 38% so far this year but have flattened recently — a possible result of low inventories, per data from Bloomreach, a digital commerce software company.

What's happening: Some of the biggest U.S. retailers are finding ways around the inventory shipping delays to save their most important season of the year.

  • Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Costco are among those chartering their own cargo ships to import goods.
  • Some are also using air freight — which is far costlier — to try to stock shelves in time.
  • Such moves will hurt retailers' profit margins — unless they jack prices way up — but companies don't want to miss out on consumers' big spending plans.

Yes, but: Smaller chains and mom-and-pop stores don't have such resources.

  • "For retailers whose business is already not in great shape ... this could be kind of the last straw," said Brian Walker, Bloomreach's chief strategy officer.

Be smart: Experts are urging consumers to shop early for the holidays this year and consider creative shopping alternatives.

  • Don't count on the fast e-commerce delivery you've come to expect.
  • Order online, then pick up in the store — it's likely to be fastest (provided the item you want is in stock).
  • Don't be embarrassed to buy everyone gift cards this year. They can be used later, when inventories are replenished.
  • Consider shopping at thrift stores, which young people prefer anyway for their smaller carbon footprint.
Expand chart
Data: PwC; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Go deeper

Retail sales rise 0.7% in September from August

Data: St. Louis Fed via FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. retail sales rose in September as a result of higher gas and auto dealership sales, according to data released on Friday by the Department of Commerce.

The big picture: Higher retail sales may have been the effect of consumers buying early for the holidays out of fear of supply shortages.

This is what a profit margin squeeze looks like

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Two inflation indexes out this week, taken together, show how companies’ margins are getting squeezed.

Why it matters: Corporate earnings growth, while still historically high, is receding from record second-quarter levels. Margins will be a huge focus during Q3 earnings calls this month.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.