Back-to-school shopping can be so exciting to some children, running to the store to pick out your favorite color of supplies. But this year, you may have found some shelves empty.

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM)--The COVID-19 pandemic caused shortages and shipping delays in stores across the country. Now, your children's school supplies are affected.

Back-to-school shopping can be so exciting to some children, running to the store to pick out your favorite color of supplies. But this year, you may have found some shelves empty.

Every year, some stores are overwhelmed by back-to-school shopping, since everyone usually goes around the same time. This year, stores aren't able to restock those shelves as quickly.

"But right now, with staffing issues, supply chain issues, not only are retailers struggling to ship things quickly to their customers who ordered things online, but they are struggling to get those items back on shelves as well," said Kristin McGrath, the editor for the Retailmenot blog.

Anna Nagurney is a professor at the University of Massachusetts and studies supply chains and distribution. She told Western Mass News there are several reasons for the school supplies shortage.

For one, she said other countries are closing down their ports due to COVID-19 cases.

"Many of the school supplies continue to be produced in China. That includes backpacks, lunch boxes, pencils, and even notepads...Several of the ports in China have closed down because of cases. Not that there are many cases, but the Chinese are risk-averse," said Anna Nargurney, the Eugene M. Isenberg chair in integrative studies is the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst.

She said there's even a shortage of containers and that's increasing shipping costs...

"Now it's costing rather than say $6,000 or $7,000, to transport in one of these containers for school supplies, it's averaging about $20,000 and they're expecting it to reach $35,000," said Nargurney.

Then, once those items finally get shipped overseas, there's a shortage of employees ready to process the items. And if the shipments aren't coming overseas and traveling by truck, the labor shortage is affecting that process, too.

"Numerous truckers, many are retiring, many have gotten sick, they're extremely important essential workers. We have a shortage of truckers," said Nargurney.

The most common items affected are laptops, graphing calculators, and certain brands of notebooks and folders, according to McGrath.

McGrath said if you head to your local store and can't find what you need, try shopping around online. Or, check nearby stores.

"Go online, and a lot of retailers will allow you to search nearby stores. So, if you're preferred store doesn't have it in stock, see which ones near you do. You might have something within a half-hour drive," said McGrath.

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