U.S. shoppers perceive product shortages to be worse now than at height of pandemic, says recent survey

Retail Insight’s new 2022 survey of 1,000 U.S. shoppers revealed that 71% of shoppers felt that out-of-stocks were greater now than during the height of panic buying seen at the start of the pandemic.

Retail Insight’s (Chicago) new 2022 survey of 1,000 U.S. shoppers revealed that 71% of shoppers felt that out-of-stocks were greater now than during the height of panic buying seen at the start of the pandemic. Additionally, 61% felt that product availability online is now lower than during that same period of the pandemic. The survey also revealed 54% found out-of-stocks to be more of a bricks-and-mortar issue and online availability seemed better. However, 61% said there was often an alternative item that met their needs if their usual products or brand was not available on the shelf.

“For the most part, shoppers are understanding of the well-publicized and multifaceted pressures facing retailers in today’s challenging trading environment,” said Paul Boyle, CEO of Retail Insight, in a press release. “But that does not stop poor availability, out-of-stocks and shelf-gaps from becoming more than just a bone of contention in their buying journeys. Poor stock availability—whether in-store or on the digital shelf—is one of the biggest drivers of customer dissatisfaction, and where baskets get abandoned and long-term loyalty can be lost. We estimate that retailers lose 8% of revenue through poor inventory availability, which, when combined with intensified competition and spiraling supplier and manufacturing costs, is revenue retailers simply cannot afford to leave on the table.”

While 48% of survey respondents acknowledged the role the pandemic played in causing out-of-stocks, 36% also felt that a shortage of warehouse operatives played a role, as retailers face mounting pressure amidst growing labor shortages. Two thirds (66%) said better pay and working conditions for warehouse operatives and store staff could improve the inventory availability issues retailers were facing. Many US retailers are already bolstering pay or offering new benefits to store associates and warehouse workers to address labor gaps following the Great Resignation in a bid to recruit and retain staff. Shoppers also perceive that retailers are not well equipped to deal with mounting supply chain issues, with 44% saying that retailers did not have the technological infrastructure needed to cope with heightened or rapidly changing demand, and 26% saying grocery chains did not have the systems in place to cope with new supply chain demands.