By Bill SchmickiBerkshires columnist
Consumers are making up for last year’s moderate Thanksgiving holiday. Air travel has jumped. Traffic on the roads should be heavy. Grocery stores are crowded and families are coming together again across the country. Hooray!
As most readers know, last year’s vacation was a bit of a mess largely because of the pandemic. Fewer people have traveled. Instead, many of us decided to play it safe. Across the country, family members decided to stay home, avoid the possibility of contagion, and postpone the celebration together until this year. It was a smart decision. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases have declined, vaccination rates have increased, and America has reopened its borders to vaccinated foreign travelers
For tourists and other visitors, New York, Las Vegas and Disney World top the list of favorite vacation destinations during Thanksgiving week, according to Trivago, one of the world’s leading accommodation search platforms. Domestically, Triple A predicts that 53.4 million people plan to travel during the holidays (including me). This is 80 percent more than last year. This increase in travel is likely to cause some chaos on roads, railways and airports, but nothing out of the ordinary for one of the busiest vacations of the year.
However, inflation and supply chain issues present various hurdles for consumers. Higher gasoline prices increase the cost of travel. The average price at the pump is around $ 3.40 per gallon for this week, which is the highest price in seven years. Supply chain shortages in the semiconductor industry have hampered the production of new vehicles overall, leading to a shortage of rental cars. Car rental prices (if you can find one) are outrageous.
Thanksgiving dinner will also be more expensive, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. A dinner for 10 people is valued at $ 53.31, which is a 14% increase from last year. It sounds awfully high, but last year’s prices have been depressed. The average total cost of that same dinner in 2020 was $ 46.90. This was a decrease of $ 2.01 from 2019 and the lowest price for a Turkish dinner since 2010.
Supply shortages have also appeared on grocery store shelves. Jellied canned cranberry sauce, produced by Ocean Spray, a cooperative of more than 700 farms, may not be easy to find this year. It seems that there is a shortage of cans which has forced the co-op to change sizes of cans. The disruption created a shortage of the Thanksgiving staple just in time for the holidays. The supply of frozen turkeys in cold storage is also at an all-time low. Prices for items such as pie crusts, rolls, vegetable platters and fresh cranberries saw double-digit increases. The good news, however, is that the stuffing mix, for some reason, suffered a 19% price drop.
Consumer data indicates that shoppers also flocked to grocery stores earlier this year to anticipate price hikes and worry about a product shortage. Buyers have also turned to lower priced brands and are visiting several retailers looking for lower prices. Count me guilty of all of the above.
By the way, I will be visiting my family for the holidays and staying for the weekend. As a result, I will not be posting my usual Friday Market column this week. To all of my readers, have a Happy Thanksgiving.