We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

Share this page

Christmas Shortages: Keep calm and keep it simple

Summary

  • Members of our Consumer Insight Panel told us they aren’t starting their Christmas shopping any earlier than previous years, despite the publicised risk of shortages. 
  • For consumers on the panel, health concerns and price rises outweigh concerns about shortages this Christmas. 
  • Some panel members might buy more from online marketplaces this Christmas to obtain items in short supply, which may expose them to risks of unsafe products.
     

Introduction

Last year the pandemic severely disrupted Christmas plans for many households. This year the pandemic threat may be less prevalent (depending on the path of the Omicron variant) but consumers face new economic pressures. To understand how consumers are navigating this changing landscape, we explored Christmas plans with our Consumer Insight Panel - a group of 36 households who are taking part in regular research activities for Which?. 

This year, our panel members are hoping for a special but low key Christmas with their family and friends, prioritising being healthy and together without restrictions. They are looking forward to modest celebrations either in their homes or in friends’ and families’ homes. Having an extravagant Christmas, and splashing out isn’t something people are generally considering. For many, the theme of this Christmas is ‘keeping it simple’.

One threat to these precious plans is widely reported problems with global supply chains, which could lead to shortages and price rises of key products this Christmas, including turkey and presents. We carried out an online community with our Consumer Insight panel to explore consumer attitudes towards and experiences of price rises and shortages in the run up to Christmas.

Low concern over shortages

Most panel members want to keep positive about Christmas and appear relatively relaxed about potential shortages. Our panellists do not want to be panicked into shopping earlier and are generally happy to find ways to work around shortages by doing without or substituting items they might not be able to get. Some have started buying already anyway as it is their usual behaviour, and others are making a conscious decision to have a simple holiday. 

Costs and catching covid outweigh concerns about shortages

When asked to choose from a list, the most common concern for panel members was the cost of living - driven primarily by energy price rises. This is front-of-mind as we head into winter. Some of our panel have experienced problems with energy bills and energy companies shutting down already and have endured hardship as a result: 

Concern about food and fuel prices rank closely behind energy, and worries about prices consistently outweigh worry about shortages. This aligns with our Which? Consumer Insight tracker, where around half (53%) of consumers say they are worried about food shortages compared to 69% about food prices. 

Health concerns rank top as the consumer challenge our panel worry about in the run up to Christmas, specifically the risk of someone catching Covid-19 - especially now there is a new variant on UK shores. 
 

Working round shortages

Just under half (15 out of 35) of the panel reported that they will not change their shopping behaviour in the face of potential shortages. Among the others, the most commonly mentioned change in shopping behaviour will be purchasing more from sellers on online marketplaces. Buying from marketplace sellers requires much more consumer vigilance as people do not have the same protections as they do when buying from traditional retail outlets or websites, leaving them exposed to unsafe products. But our panel generally appeared to be aware of this. 

Conclusion

What this qualitative research shows clearly is that shortages are not a big concern for consumers. Households are happy with substituting material items or going without as long as they are able to have a healthy, low key Christmas with their friends and family. But price increases continue to cause concern, and with inflation expected to rise further in the New Year, we'll be keeping a close eye on how our panel members are affected and respond.

Contact us

If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please email Paige Johns at consumerinsight@which.co.uk

Published on 15.12.21

Share this page