The North Pole is floating off Long Beach
We’re calling it now: “supply chain disruption” will go down as the least-favorite holiday gift of 2021. Less than half of consumers are shifting their holiday shopping earlier in the season, but those consumers have already completed more than a third of their shopping on average.
But when we ask consumers when they plan on finishing their online holiday shopping, we get an answer that doesn’t look all that different from previous years. The majority of consumers plan to hold out until at least Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) to finish up their shopping, with at least a third of consumers still planning to finish in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Part of this trend can be explained by FOMO. Consumers don’t want to miss out on the ‘best’ deals by finishing their shopping too early. In fact, 1 in 5 consumers say they’re planning to take advantage of BFCM deals even more than last year, while more than half plan to repeat last year’s bargain-hunting.
The danger for consumers—and online brands without clearly-advertised holiday cutoffs—is the risk of shipping delays if waiting too long before ordering holiday gifts. With more than a third of consumers saying they plan to shop more online than in-store this BFCM (and half as many leaning more towards in-store), some consumers could be disappointed if ecommerce shipping volumes once again exceed logistics capacity.
Pre-pandemic, the recourse for waiting too long to shop online was simply to brave the in-store crowds to pick up last-minute gifts. With travel still below pre-pandemic levels (and further exacerbated by the concerning trend of cancelled flights), 60% of consumers are planning on having gifts shipped to loved ones. For these purchases, waiting until the last minute is a non-starter.
So, if one-third of holiday shoppers are buying early, one-third are waiting for the best BFCM deals (but still planning on shipping gifts to loved ones), and the remaining third fully plan to wait until the last minute—it should be no surprise that consumers’ confidence in retailers’ and carriers’ ability to delivery on-time this holiday falls along similar lines. Millennials, ever the optimists, show the greatest confidence—while older generations are the most concerned.
Here are two possible scenarios that could play out:
- Port congestion & transportation shortages ease somehow in the coming weeks and products are replenished on warehouse and store shelves in the final days of the holiday—which in turn results in a last-minute glut of (expedited) online orders and frantic store traffic for locations that are already struggling to get staffed up.
- Supply chain issues persist, and holiday shoppers find they’ve waited too long for Plan C or D. This pushes inventory out to 2022Q1 (which we’ll be exploring in our December edition). But if consumers find stock-outs everywhere they turn this holiday—what do they plan to do? That’s what we asked in one of our final pre-holiday BOXpoll surveys: