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Why You Can't Buy a Nintendo Switch Right Now

November 23, 2020

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If you’ve been into an REI lately, you might’ve noticed a few things missing. Hammocks, kayaks, propane—you know, like, things that should be in a camping store.

Or Nintendo Switches from Amazon.

So, what’s the deal?

Turns out, it’s not just because hordes of people are taking up new hobbies during the pandemic. It has a lot to do with manufacturing in the U.S. 

Where It Started

According to The Atlantic, shortages during the coronavirus aren’t only a supply and demand issue. 

Worldwide manufacturing is in upheaval during the pandemic. 

In 2018, the U.S. imported over 20% of all of its goods from China. 

When China shut down to stop the spread of the virus, it also halted the flow of tons of items into the U.S., like strollers and Nintendo Switches. 

Additionally, China’s shutdown also stopped other countries, like Vietnam and South Korea, from being able to continue making some of their goods.

The result was fewer products available on the market.

Isn’t China Open?

It’s true. China’s initial lockdown is largely over.

However, once China got back in the game and imports restarted, the world faced other issues. 

Many sea-based ports were shut down because of the virus, and many companies faced a packaging shortage—paper bags, plastic containers, and aluminum—because all of those need to be manufactured, too. 

Trucking in America has been affected, as well. 

Aside from shutdowns restricting truck drivers from their typical resting spots and meals, a higher surge of shipments means longer waits at loading docks, meaning, you guessed it, more delays. 

Shippers face an even bigger burden for two reasons: Many physical stores are closed down and many people are shopping online right now. 

These factors led UPS to report a 65% increase in home deliveries during the June quarter. 

So, How Long Will It Be Like This?

I tried to buy a hammock to put on our deck a few weeks ago, and shipping was delayed indefinitely. 

Unfortunately, this scenario doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future. 

Why not? It’s time to point to what’s called just-in-time inventory.

Just-In-Time Inventory

Also called lean inventory, is an inventory style that stores use to try to reduce costs. 

For example, a grocery store keeps a low stock, rather than having months of products on hand like in the past. The store then supplies its shelves from fresh deliveries to try to reduce waste. 

The Flaws

The just-in-time inventory theory works—until it doesn’t. 

When the coronavirus hit, regular shipments were disrupted. Hence the lack toilet paper. 

Other challenges to this system can include natural disasters and civil unrest, all of which are almost impossible to predict.

Why It Probably Won’t Change Soon

Retailers are afraid to change their inventory systems because it’s costly, and they worry that the new levels of demand will dry up overnight. Then it will be their responsibility to try to sell the excess products.

Also, it took decades to switch U.S. manufacturing to be based largely abroad. And it’ll take just as long to transfer it back, so there’s no quick solution.

How to Cope In The Meantime

For now, all we can do is plan ahead and be patient. 

Order any holiday or birthday gifts early. Think ahead about larger purchases, like furniture, and expect delays. If you’re waiting for something vital, like a bed, consider buying an air mattress to get you through.

Also, if you see something you’ll need in the next week or two at the store, pick one up then, rather than hoping you can find it later. There’s no need to build up a massive stockpile of anything, but try to get necessities a week or two before you run out.

Overall, this pandemic requires some forward thinking that you may not be used to yet. We’ll all have to re-train our thinking for the time being.

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of Varo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).
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Tiffany Verbeck

Tiffany Verbeck

Tiffany Verbeck is a personal finance freelance writer and podcaster. You can find her full portfolio and the latest episodes of The Poor Me Podcast at

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