| Dec 6, 2021

Elf on an Empty Shelf: Product Shortages & Holiday Shopping

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

*Note: This is an updated version of a post from early November 2021, and reflects new survey data collected over Black Friday Weekend 2021.

Last holiday season, consumers adapted their shopping routines in light of the pandemic. This year, they’ve made additional adjustments due to product shortages and rising prices. To better understand how holiday gift shopping has been impacted, Numerator surveyed over 10,000 holiday gift buyers and added the latest results to our report, Product Shortages & Holiday Shopping. Download the full report or check out the holiday highlights below.

Santa’s Sleigh Delay

Three-fourths of holiday gift shoppers have noticed shortages on the gifts they’re trying to purchase this season. While most shoppers (46%) have only noted a slight impact from these shortages, one-in-three (34%) have experienced moderate or significant impacts. Two-thirds (72%) of these shoppers have also noted longer shipping times and shipping delays this year.

Empty shelves may lead to emptier-than-normal stockings this year. 56% of shoppers say they won’t be able to get everything on their due to shortages, 52% are postponing gifting until what they want becomes available, and 51% are spending less overall because some of what they want is out-of-stock.


The Price is Not-So-Nice

The impact of rising prices has been even more widely noted than shortages, with two-in-five (39%) holiday shoppers citing a moderate or significant impact on their gift shopping due to higher prices. To combat these inflationary pressures, half (55%) of shoppers are seeking out additional promotions & sales for their holiday gift shopping, and one-third (36%) are buying fewer gifts overall. 


Make a List, Check for it Twice

Consumers shared that even the most popular stocking stuffers have been difficult to find this year. Electronics and Toys & Games have the most noted shortages, with roughly one-third of consumers experiencing limited offerings in these categories. Home Goods and Apparel follow suit with just over 1 in 4 consumers experiencing shortages. The same four categories have been hit the hardest by price increases, according to consumers.

Many holiday gifters shared that they’ve been substituting similar items when the products they want are out-of-stock (69%) or that they’re checking multiple retailers to find what they want (60%). Half (51%) even shared they’re willing to pay higher prices to get items that are in short supply. Higher prices are hard to avoid this year, and those unwilling to pay more have also turned to retailer and brand switching to cut costs.

The Christmas Creep Continues

In order to get all of the items on their lists, three-fourths of consumers (72%) say they started their holiday gift shopping earlier than they have in seasons past. At the time of our survey in late November, over half (59%) of shoppers had already completed their holiday gift shopping, and fewer than one-in-five were less than half way done. 

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 updated Product Shortages & Holiday Shopping report or get in touch with us today.