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Majority of Americans slow to start holiday shopping despite widespread product availability and shipping concerns

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CordialMake a connection.

Consumers more apt to play the odds or fall back on gift cards.

San Diego, CA—November 11, 2021—Today we released the findings of a new survey which revealed that most consumers are not shopping earlier this holiday season, despite widespread concerns about product availability and shipping delays.

The poll of 1,002 American adults conducted between November 5-7, 2021, indicated a significant disconnect between consumer concerns over supply chain issues and early-shopping decisions: While more than 70% of consumers are concerned that online orders won’t arrive in time for the holidays, 41% have not started any shopping at the time of the survey, with just 20% having done “most” or “all” of their seasonal purchasing.

 There is an interesting paradox at play with consumers. They are aware of the challenging market conditions and the likelihood of shipping problems but are sticking to typical patterns and perhaps playing the odds when it comes to shopping choices,” said Carrie Parker, SVP, Marketing at Cordial. “Consumers seem to understand the risk of waiting, but also know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday usually provide tremendous discounts on items on their wish lists and are perhaps waiting for really compelling offers to come their way to jump-start their shopping.”

The Black Friday effect

More than half (51%) of consumers expect to spend similar amounts as in recent years on these traditional blockbuster sales days, with 26.3% expecting to shop more than in the past, and 22%, saying they’ll spend less. 

All 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+
Concerned about online orders not arriving on time 70% 82% 77% 73% 73% 59% 55%
Planning to shop more on Black Friday & Cyber Monday 26% 45% 37% 34% 24% 11% 8%


While younger consumers are the most likely to be concerned about potential shipping delays (a concern for 82% of 18- to 24-year-olds, compared to 70% of all respondents), they are also significantly more likely to be planning to shop more on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, underlining the importance of cost over timeliness for those in demographics with lower levels of savings and/or disposable income.

The year of the gift card?

While Americans are not unaware of global supply chain issues, there is little evidence that these concerns are impacting their projected shopping timelines—or their willingness to seek out alternative products: 

  • 38% of consumers say they will consider purchasing a similar product, even if it is of lower quality if their preferred gift is unavailable.
  • 46% say they would likely buy a gift card from the retailer selling the out-of-stock item instead. 
  • 57% of consumers are planning on purchasing more gift cards than actual gifts this year, specifically because of concerns over unavailable or back ordered items.
  All Respondents Male Female
Buy a similar product that is available, even if lower quality 38% 34% 41%
Buy a gift card from a retailer that sells the out-of-stock product 46% 44% 48%
Buy a charitable gift (e.g., a donation in someone’s name) 13% 14% 12%
Buy the gift of an experience (e.g. restaurant, spa, services) 29% 30% 28%
Not make a purchase 17% 19% 16%


Women are more likely to stick to their original purchase intent than men, with 41% willing to go with a similar product compared to 34% of men. Meanwhile, men are slightly more likely to switch to charitable gifts (14% compared to 12% of women) or to not make a purchase at all (19% vs 16%). Men and women are about equally likely to purchase gift cards or experiences as alternative options.

How retailers can respond

Despite these data points, retailers facing supply chain issues cannot simply rely on their customers deciding to purchase gift cards instead—particularly if the items may be available elsewhere: 83% welcome alternative gift ideas from retailers when their items are out of stock, with a further 94% indicating that they are more likely to make a purchase in response to personalized marketing.

 In addition, the Cordial findings also indicate a strong consumer preference for brands with a strong corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) focus: 90% of respondents “agree” or “strongly agree” that they prefer to buy from companies who are charitable or give back to society in some way, and 93% strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “Now more than ever, I feel it is important for brands to demonstrate kindness in their marketing and advertising.”

 “Brands are facing another challenging holiday season this year, marked by a new set of extraordinary circumstances,” said Parker. “Marketers that are able to leverage customer data and insight to provide personalized cross-channel marketing experiences, layered on top of authentic, CSR-focused brand images, are best-positioned to outperform competitors.”

Survey methodology

The Cordial-commissioned survey was conducted by Dynata, a global, third-party market research firm. The sample is nationally representative and was derived from an online consumer opinion panel with all participants at least 18 years of age and living in the United States between November 5-7, 2021, among 1,002 adults, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2%. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact marketing@cordial.com.