Nov 2, 2021

Elf on an Empty Shelf: Product Shortages & Holiday Shopping

Shoppers may be checking the shelves twice this season as supply chain disruptions and product shortages threaten to hinder holiday shopping. How are consumers adjusting their holiday shopping plans in light of these expected shortages, and what do brands & retailers need to know in order to sleigh the holidays despite these setbacks?

Last holiday season, consumers adapted their shopping routines in light of the pandemic. This year, they expect additional adjustments due to product shortages and supply chain issues. To better understand how consumers expect current supply chain disruptions to impact holiday shopping, Numerator surveyed hundreds of holiday gift buyers and published the results in our latest report, Product Shortages & Holiday Shopping. Download the full report or check out the holiday highlights below.

Santa’s Sleigh Delay

Of those who have already started their holiday gift shopping, two-in-five have noticed shortages on the gifts they’re trying to purchase. When it comes to planned purchases, over three-fourths of consumers say they’re worried supply chain disruptions will obstruct their stocking-stuffing needs. While most shoppers are only mildly concerned about the impact of these shortages, one-in-five (22%) have significant concerns. 

Another one-in-five (19%) expect the shortages to prevent them from checking everything off their lists this holiday season, which in turn may impact their overall gift spending. Since only 3% of consumers say they’re willing to pay a higher price for items in short supply, empty shelves could mean full wallets; 17% of consumers think they’ll spend less on gifts overall this year because they expect some of what they want to be unavailable.


Make a List, Check for it Twice

Consumers think that even the most popular stocking stuffers will be difficult to find this year. Electronics and Toys & Games generate the most concern, with roughly half of consumers expecting limited offerings in these categories. Home Goods and Apparel follow suit with nearly 1 in 4 consumers anticipating shortages. Though most shoppers expect shortages, there’s a small set (17%) optimistic that the categories they’re trying to buy will remain well-stocked. 

If they do encounter shortages, over one-third of consumers (35%) say they would substitute something similar in lieu of an unavailable item. Slightly fewer (28%) say they would shop at different retailers in order to get the product they want. Consumers expect Mass retailers to have the best selection of products this holiday season, but they also think it will be the most heavily impacted by supply chain issues & shortages. Online is viewed as a more reliable channel for many shoppers, ranking second in terms of best selection with very few ranking it as an area of concern.


The Christmas Creep Continues

In order to get all of the items on their lists, one-third of consumers (35%) say they’ll start their holiday gift shopping earlier than they have in seasons past, and one-fourth (25%) expect to wrap up early as well. At the time of our survey in late October, over half (55%) of shoppers had already started their shopping, or planned to start by the end of the month, up 11 percentage points from previous years. Although many shoppers have kicked off their holiday shopping, most don’t (53%) expect to finish until December. Nearly 1-in-10 have already completed their shopping for the holiday season as of mid-October.


Looking Ahead

Holiday shopping has never been more dynamic, meaning brands & retailers must evolve and adapt alongside their consumers. As shoppers shift from bricks to clicks for their holiday purchases, an omnichannel understanding of the consumer is more important than ever. For additional views on the impact of supply chain disruptions on holiday shopping, download the full Product Shortages & Holiday Shopping report or get in touch with us today.

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