Early Bird Holiday Shoppers Are Already Reporting Supply Chain Challenges

Half of those who have started shopping for the holidays are reporting delivery delays and stock issues, notes retail and e-commerce analyst Claire Tassin, and the situation is only expected to worsen as the rest of the country joins in.
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Monqiue Zarbaf
October 15, 2021 at 12:01 am UTC

Morning Consult’s holiday tracking data indicates that retailers’ incentives to shop early are working, pushing consumers to start buying gifts earlier this year. But many of those early bird shoppers are already encountering significant supply chain issues. As more consumers start their holiday shopping and more stores roll out early Black Friday deals, expect extraordinarily intense pressure to compete on both product price and availability.

The early bird may not even get the worm this holiday season. Roughly half of all proactive shoppers report that they’re already feeling the supply chain squeeze.

Younger Consumers Are Experiencing the Greatest Supply Chain Impact

Respondents were asked if they’ve experience any holiday shopping issues
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Responses gathered Oct. 1-3, 2021, among 686 U.S. adults who said they have started their holiday shopping, with a margin of error of +/- 4%.

Those figures increase among the country’s youngest shoppers: A staggering 70 percent of millennials and Gen Z adults who have started their holiday shopping report that a product they wanted to purchase in a store was out of stock. One-third of those young early bird shoppers say this has happened multiple times as they’ve begun their holiday shopping.

Half of U.S. Consumers Have Started Their Holiday Shopping

Respondents were asked how much of their holiday shopping they’ve already completed
Poll conducted Oct. 7-11, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-2%.

Despite growing scarcity concerns, only half of American consumers have started their holiday shopping, and relatively few are close to finishing. Product supply will get worse before it gets better. In the United Kingdom, consumer confidence took a tumble due to supply issues.

Now, it’s all about setting expectations and minimizing backlash.

Brands need to ensure that shipping timelines are visible early on in the purchasing process and help customers filter for items that can ship quickly. When customers do face those inevitable delays, retailers must also pay extra attention to the post-purchase experience and provide transparent updates.

Retailers can also incentivize consumers to shift their gift purchasing forward this year via early bird deals, which have already seen success: In the same week that Amazon and Target launched early holiday promotions, Morning Consult’s weekly holiday trend polling saw an increase in U.S. consumers who said they’ve started shopping. Targeting incentives based on predicted behavior, inventory availability, fulfillment channel choices and shipping speed can help retailers stay ahead and in the green this season.

Claire Tassin is a retail and e-commerce analyst. She conducts research on shifting consumer behaviors and expectations, as well as trends relevant to marketing leaders in the retail sector.
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