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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to navigate and manage the impacts of the pandemic as they prepare for the 2021 holiday season. From global supply chain disruptions to labor shortages, the past two years have been particularly difficult for business planning.

However, many SMEs, especially those with e-commerce operations, have adapted and even benefited from some of the unexpected opportunities presented by the pandemic, such as the increase in online shopping.

To gain insight into how the pandemic is impacting holiday season preparations and other business expectations for this holiday season, DHL conducted a survey of U.S. SMEs. Here are the key findings, compiled from the nearly 2,000 responses:

 Supply chain challenges persist. When asked about expected business challenges this holiday season, 50% of respondents said supply chain delays were their biggest concern; 24% said staffing, 18% said rising inflation and 9% said international policies, such as Brexit and tariffs.

Large increases in e-commerce sales are expected. Nearly all the SMEs surveyed are optimistic about the 2021 holiday season. A large majority (61%) of respondents said they expect their holiday e-commerce sales to increase year-over-year (from the 2020 holiday season to the 2021 holiday season), with 39% expecting a significant increase. Twenty percent expect e-commerce holiday sales to decrease year-over-year and 19% expect sales will stay the same.

The pandemic positively impacted 2020 holiday sales. Despite so much uncertainty in 2020, a majority (55%) of respondents reported that they had significantly or somewhat higher online sales during the 2020 holiday season than they had initially projected at the beginning of last year (prior to the pandemic). Just 14% of respondents had the same holiday online sales in 2020 that they had planned for at the beginning of 2020, and 31% experienced lower online sales than projected. With so many businesses performing better than expected in 2020, it explains why so many SMEs are optimistic about the 2021 holiday season.

Express shipping is top priority. Following last year’s holiday season, SMEs recognized that fast shipping is a priority for their customers, and they have adjusted their strategies to accommodate those needs. In fact, when asked what is most important to their online customers during the holiday season, 49% of respondents said fast/on-time shipping. And when asked what they are prioritizing this holiday season, 41% said express shipping options.

Asia remains a top business partner.  Almost half of the businesses polled (42%) said the region of the world that they’ve experienced the most demand from in 2021 was Asia. This aligns with the results from the previous DHL survey conducted in May 2021, in which 38% of respondents said Asia was the top priority region for their business the rest of 2021.

Businesses want to avoid disruptions at all costs. All the SME respondents said they were willing to go to great lengths for a seamless and successful holiday season.

  • 44% said they would listen to Jingle Bells on repeat if it meant their business would have a seamless and successful holiday season
  • 23% would sleep in the snow
  • 18% would take an eggnog bath
  • 16% would be Scrooge’s roommate

Overall, the survey findings suggest that despite continued pandemic-related challenges, most SMEs have high expectations for the 2021 holiday season.

Working with an experienced logistics partner, like DHL, during the holiday season can help companies navigate the challenges that remain and uncover new opportunities. DHL is dedicated to working closely with companies, and to creating custom-shipping solutions so they can begin or continue to expand their businesses beyond the U.S. borders.

See here for the full survey results. Follow @DHLUS on Twitter and Instagram for timely information and updates.

Serious about going global? Your brand can reach 220 countries. Get started today.