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Retailers say you absolutely need to do your holiday shopping early this year. Here's why.

Alina O'Neal has owned Learning Express Toys in Buckhead for 14 years, and she said supply chain issues right now are unlike anything she's ever experienced.

ATLANTA — Black Friday is more than a month away, but stores have a message for holiday shoppers: Don't wait. 

"October is the new December," Alina O'Neal explained. "It's all about shopping right now." 

O'Neal has owned Learning Express Toys in Buckhead for 14 years, and she said supply chain issues right now are unlike anything she's ever experienced.

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"It's been crazy," O'Neal said. "We're having to make phone calls. Where's this order? Are we going to get it? What's available to order?"

"We're just trying to get in everything we can," she added. 

While Learning Express normally spaces out orders throughout the fall, O'Neal said this year has been different. The team has pushed to stock up early amid inventory uncertainties.  

The good news is that O'Neal said they are stocked and ready, though there are big shipments that are still in limbo as supply chain issues continue. 

"Right now it's just the ability to get products from overseas to the store shelf to the consumer. And part of the reason for that is that the demand for both products as well as raw materials, inputs to production are far exceeding the supply - and that is everything we need to move those products through the supply chain," Jonathan Gold, Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Police with the National Retail Federation, said. "Everything from empty containers to space on ocean carrier vessels to the chassis that are needed to get the containers out of the port to drivers and warehouse workers, it's every step along the way."

Gold said retailers are doing their best to get customers what they need, but a lot of holiday wish list items could be affected as disruptions continue. 

"This is certainly going to hit a lot of the major categories, typically look at for holiday sales from apparel and footwear, electronics, toys, home goods, appliances, furniture, and we've all seen the auto challenges throughout the pandemic," Gold said. "It's unfortunately just going to continue for the next several months."

Meanwhile, local business owners like O'Neal urge customers not to wait to shop for the holidays. 

"Now is when you're going to find those specific items you're looking for. You're going to have more of a selection. Your prices are going to be better, and you're going to save yourself that stress," O'Neal said.