Consumers are making up for last year’s subdued Thanksgiving holiday. Air travel has jumped. Traffic on the roads is expected to be heavy. Grocery stores are crowded, and families are getting back together again all over the country. Hurrah!
As most readers know, last year’s holiday was a bit of a dud, largely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fewer people traveled. Instead, many of us decided to play it safe.
Across the nation, family members decided to remain home, avoid the possibility of contagion and postpone celebrating together until this year. That was a smart decision. In the meantime, coronavirus cases have declined, vaccinations rates have risen and America has reopened its borders to vaccinated foreign travelers.
For tourists and other visitors, New York City, Las Vegas and Disney World top the list of favored holiday destinations during Thanksgiving week, according to Trivago, a leading global accommodation search platform. On the domestic front, AAA is predicting that 53.4 million people plan to travel during the holiday (myself included). That is up 80 percent from last year.
This uptick in travel is likely to cause some chaos on the roads, rails and at airports, but nothing out of the ordinary for one of the most-traveled holidays of the year.
Inflation and supply chain issues, however, are presenting a variety of obstacles for consumers. Higher gasoline prices are raising 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. The supply chain shortages in the semiconductor sector have hurt new-vehicle production overall, which has led to a scarcity of rental cars. Car rental prices (if you can find one) are through the roof.
Thanksgiving dinner will also be more expensive, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. A dinner for 10 people is pegged at $53.31, which is a 14 percent increase from last year. That sounds awfully high, but last year, prices were depressed. The average total cost of that same dinner in 2020 was $46.90. That was a $2.01 decrease from 2019 and the lowest price tag for a turkey day dinner since 2010.
Supply shortages have also cropped up on the grocery shelves. Canned jellied 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 can shortage, which has forced the cooperative to switch can sizes. The disruption created a scarcity of the Thanksgiving staple just in time for the holiday.
Supplies of cold-storage frozen turkeys are also at their lowest level ever. Prices for items such as pie crusts, dinner rolls, veggie trays and fresh cranberries have seen double-digit increases. The good news, however, is that stuffing mix, for some reason, registered a 19 percent price decline.
Consumer data indicates that shoppers also hit the grocery stores somewhat earlier this year to get ahead of rising prices and worries that there might be product shortages. Shoppers have also been switching to lower-price brands and are visiting multiple retailers in search of lower prices. Count me as guilty of all the above.
As a side note, I will be visiting with family for the holiday and staying over into the weekend. As a result, I won’t be posting my usual Friday market column this week. To all my readers, have a Happy Thanksgiving.