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Consumers may not be starting holiday shopping early after all

Data from Cordial shows many consumers are waiting to holiday shop.

New survey data challenges the conventional wisdom that consumers are shopping earlier this holiday season.

A new survey of roughly 1,000 U.S. adult consumers from cross-channel marketing platform Cordial indicates a significant disconnect between consumer concerns over supply chain issues and early holiday shopping decisions. While more than 70% of respondents are concerned that online orders won't arrive in time for the holidays, 41% had not started any shopping at the time of the survey (Nov. 5-7, 2021), with just 20% having done "most" or "all" of their seasonal purchasing.

[Read more: Early Black Friday promos, supply chain fears impact holiday shoppers]

Slightly more than half (51%) of respondents expect to spend similar amounts as in recent years on the traditional blockbuster holiday sales days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with 26% expecting to shop more than in the past, and 22%, saying they'll spend less.

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.

Other interesting survey findings include:

  • 38% of respondents say they will consider purchasing a similar product, even if it is of lower quality, if their preferred gift is unavailable.
  • 46% of respondents say they would likely buy a gift card from the retailer selling the out-of-stock item instead.
  • 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.
  • 83% of respondents welcome alternative gift ideas from retailers when their items are out of stock, with 94% indicating that they are more likely to make a purchase in response to personalized marketing.
  • 57% of consumers are planning on purchasing more gift cards than actual gifts this year, specifically because of concerns over unavailable or backordered items.

[Read more: Study: Gift cards sales surge amid shipping delays]

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."

"There is an interesting paradox at play with consumers. They are aware of the challenging market conditions and likelihood of shipping problems but are sticking to typical patterns and perhaps playing the odds when it comes to shopping choices," said Carrie Parker, senior VP, 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 Cordial-commissioned survey was conducted by Dynata, a global, third-party market research firm. 

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