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A recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll exclusively for Ad Age shows that even though there are ongoing supply chain issues and warnings for consumers to begin holiday shopping sooner rather than later, consumers don’t want to see festive holiday ads just yet.

Americans aren’t blind to the most recent supply chain interruptions. Most say the COVID-19 pandemic is still to blame

In the last 2 months, 50% have struggled to find an items due to its limited availability; even more (58%) have been unable to purchase an item entirely due to stocking shortages. While the gradual reopening of the US economy has likely lessened the burden on America’s logistics infrastructure, 54% of US adults have still faced shipping delays in the last 2 months. As we approach the holiday season and primetime for gift buying, these product shortages and shipping delays could be a concern for consumers.

In general, Americans still agree that the COVID-19 pandemic is a driving force behind the interruptions that they’re facing. Eighty-one percent agree that the current COVID-19 situation is causing shipping issues and 66% agree that the current COVID-19 situation is making it difficult to find some products. More than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, inventory shortages and shipping delays are familiar burdens among both suppliers and consumers at every level. That said, shoppers expect brands and retailers to adjust seamlessly. Sixty-two percent of US adults believe that a company’s operational issues shouldn’t impact its customers’ shopping experience

The winter holidays are right around the corner – whether consumers are ready or not

Within the last 2 months, half (51%) of US adults have seen an advertisement about the upcoming winter holiday season while 59% have visited a store that already had winter holiday decorations on display, whether they were available for sale or used in in-store displays. Early winter holiday promotions indicate a potential disconnect between retailers and shoppers; more than two-thirds of US adults (68%) agree that winter holiday marketing shouldn’t start before Thanksgiving.

Winter holiday shopping activity may be lower during this year’s holiday season compared to last year’s. Those who shopped or plan to shop for winter holiday gifts in both 2020 and 2021 are thinking about moving their timelines forward. Sixty-nine percent of US adults shopped for winter holiday gifts last year (winter 2020) while 62% have started or plan to start shopping for winter holiday gifts this year.

The strained supply chain is top-of-mind for winter holiday shoppers

About a third (36%) of consumers who expect to shop for winter holiday gifts both last year and this year plan to start their shopping earlier. Most cite inventory and shipping concerns as reasons for doing so. Sixty-four percent of shoppers who expect to shop for winter holiday gifts earlier this year compared to last year report accelerating their shopping plans because they think product availability will be more limited. Fifty-six percent of shoppers who expect to shop for winter holiday gifts earlier this year compared to last year cite concerns about shopping issues.

Small business patrons may be particularly susceptible to operational disruptions, potentially impacting their attitudes toward local retailers. When it comes to small business versus a major retailer, 60% of US adults expect to experience more issues when shopping at the small business than when shopping at a major retailer. Sixty-two percent of US adults feel that major brands and retailers have more to offer their customers than small businesses do.


This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ad Age between October 15-18, 2021, among 996 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For more information, please contact Dami Rosanwo or Madelyn Franz.

Download the full data tables here.

Matthew Feider

Author Matthew Feider

Matthew is the Chief of Staff of The Harris Poll. In addition to supporting the CEO Will Johnson, he leads the internal marketing team, investor relations, and executive communications. As the leader of the marketing department, Matthew has developed exclusive polling partnerships with Ad Age, AdWeek, Morning Brew, Fast Company, TIME, and Yahoo Finance. Prior to joining Harris last year, Matthew helped build the venture valuation business unit at Carta. He is currently an MBA candidate at The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.

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