A (supply) chain reaction

Consumers expect supply chains disruptions to continue next year, and are already making plans

What’s the one thing industry analysts, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, and most consumers we polled can agree on? They all expect supply chain issues to continue into early next year, if not longer.

In our latest BOXpoll surveys, we set out to gauge consumers’ awareness of inventory delays during peak season; as well as their outlook (and shopping plans) moving into 2022.

We found that most consumers are paying attention to headlines about inventory challenges and have tempered their expectations accordingly.

Half of shoppers are thinking opportunistically about delays—they expect sales and promotions early next year and are holding back purchases until then. (What remains to be seen is if (and when) consumers realize sky-high demand is a large driver of the shortages, feel inflation hitting their wallets, and cut back purchasing.)

Key takeaways:

  • Two-thirds (68%) of consumers say they expect to find a lot of items out of stock this holiday. Luckily for retailers, only a quarter (26%) hold them responsible for delays and shortages.
  • 45% of consumers say they didn’t see the deals they expected early in the holiday season, and 43% said they were holding out for better deals to do most their shopping. (This question was asked in mid-November, ahead of Black Friday.) This is consistent with responses to our weekly tracker question gauging when consumers expect to finish their online holiday shopping. Each week, about half of respondents have said they plan to finish either the weeks of Black Friday or Cyber Monday, or the week before Christmas. Since the start of November, more and more shoppers have joined the “Week Before Christmas” camp.
  • Shoppers aren’t optimistic that supply chain challenges will get ironed out soon. Two-thirds (69%) of consumers are expecting issues to continue into early next year, and 62% expect them to continue throughout 2022. It’s clear shoppers see delays and shortages as part of the new normal.

Key takeaways:

  • Half of consumers are hoping to nab a discount by waiting out the holiday supply chain logjam… because all that inventory has to show up eventually, right? 56% of consumers expect a lot of sales in January and February, and 51% are waiting until then to make some of their purchases. That number grows when looking at younger generations, with about two-thirds of both Gen Zers and Millennials holding out for 2022 sales.
  • The most popular product category people are willing to wait for is, of course, electronics. 30% of all consumers and 39% percent are holding out on electronics purchases, likely due to current inventory shortages (compounded by chip shortages) and the promise of a discount on a high-value product.
  • Apparel comes in at a close second, with one in five (21%) of consumers, one-third (31%) of Gen Zers, and one-quarter (25%) of Millennials waiting until the new year to buy. We think this is more about saving money through the future sale than current availability.
  • Consumer plans for early 2022 purchases, which we expect to be driven heavily by gift cards, will extend the holiday season even longer for retailers.

Key takeaways:

  • One in four shoppers plan to spend more than usual in January if retailers run more sales. Retailers can expect to see more January shopping from one-third of younger generations (34% of Gen Z and 32% of Millennials).
  • Older generations don’t seem to be as enticed by January sales, with just 21% of Gen X and 20% of Baby Boomers planning to spend more. Bah humbug.
  • One-third (38%) of parents, and one-third (36%) of people with household income of more than $100K are planning to spend more than usual.

BOXpoll™ by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture, and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult //2094 US consumers surveyed November-December 2021.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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