SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — You may not even be thinking about Halloween yet, but those in the shipping industry are urging you to think ahead to the holiday season.

Shop and ship early. That’s the advice from Syracuse University Supply Chain Management Professor Patrick Penfield. He’s never seen the system this clogged.

“Over 70 ships are outside the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and so right now, those ports are struggling to try to unload those ships.”

Patrick Penfield

The three factors he believes are contributing to all the chaos are COVID-19, severe weather such as hurricanes and flooding, and cyber security issues impacting various businesses.

Penfield says in August, China closed its ports because of the Delta variant.

They’ll shut things down, nothing moves, and then what happens is that you get this congestion in their port and then eventually when they open it up, then they send a whole bunch of ships and then all these ships are now waiting to be unloaded.

Patrick Penfield, Syracuse University Supply Chain Management Professor

The cycle continues. Throw in labor issues and you have another backlog.

“When you unload them, then there’s no place to put them and the other dilemma you have is there’s no truck drivers to be able to bring the stuff wherever it has to go from a distribution standpoint.,” Penfield said.

Those staffing shortages will also create shipping struggles. So, Penfield says the time to start thinking about your holiday shopping is now.

“As soon as November and December hit, that’s when you’ll see a lack of availability,” he said.

Initial inventory should be stocked on store shelves but Penfield is concerned about replenishment orders, such as any new hot toys.

“China makes about 95 percent of the toys that we use here in the United States,” Penfield said. Meaning, you have to equate for them to make their way overseas.

The U.S. Postal Service is already making its seasonal pricing adjustments.

FedEx is warning you to shop early as the company struggles with a shipping surge:

We continue to experience a peak-like surge in package volume due to the explosive growth of e-commerce brought on by the onset of COVID-19, resulting in more packages entering our network than ever before.  That, coupled with a severe ongoing labor shortage, means we have to prepare as early as possible to deliver the best possible service to our customers. We’re accelerating our efforts to bolster capacity. This includes a laser-like focus on people, facilities and technology. We strongly encourage all customers planning on shopping online for the holidays to shop early and ship early! We’re also actively working with merchants to help ensure they’re ready.  We are sharing tools to give shoppers more control over their deliveries, solutions to help simplify the returns process and tips to help merchants keep their business on track.

UPS is gearing up to fill thousands of seasonal jobs.

With all that in mind, the earlier you can shop the better off you and your wallet will be.

“If you’re buying stuff online, try to buy that stuff in late October, early November,” said Penfield. “Try to get that stuff done as soon as possible.”