Supply Chain Snarls Hinder Consumer Spending

Logistical woes make some items scarce, costly, or not worth the wait

Man receiving home-delivered packages
•••

Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

Long waits, empty shelves, and costlier items are becoming more commonplace, according to a new survey—and it isn’t even the holidays yet.

Sixty percent of 2,200 adults who responded to a Morning Consult survey from Sept. 17-Sept. 21 said they’ve had a hard time obtaining at least one item in the last month, and 57% of them decided to do without it. Of young adults between 18 and 34 years old, 44% decided not to buy something because it was too expensive—due partly to shortage-related price increases—while 42% of all adults declined to buy because of the expected wait times. Twenty-six percent of adults canceled their orders because of long delays. When it came to food items, however, most adults (82%) persisted until they found the items they were looking for.

The survey reflects difficulties brought on, in part, by supply disruptions due to coronavirus-related closures and restrictions. At the onset of the pandemic last year, many countries shuttered non-essential businesses and encouraged workers to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. But the lockdowns snarled production, shipping, and transportation of many items, causing imbalances of supply and demand for almost everything, including housing, cars, groceries, paper goods, and sports equipment. Today suppliers are still struggling to keep up, leaving some store aisles looking sparse.

“Consumers are feeling the impact of tangled supply chains, and the resulting symptoms—scarcity, price increases, delivery delays—are dampening demand,” wrote Kayla Bruun, an economic analyst at Morning Consult, in the report. With the holidays coming up, she warned, businesses risk losing out if they can’t streamline their supply chains.

Have a question, comment, or story to share? You can reach Medora at medoralee@thebalance.com.