Eight in 10 shoppers hit with 'out of stock' items due to supply chain disruptions

21 August 2023

More than four-fifths (82%) of bricks and mortar shoppers say they’ve experienced items being ‘out of stock’ this year, according to new research.

The data – from software provider Retail Insight – finds this headline figure is up 11 percentage points year-on-year, and says supply chain disruptions causing it are now seriously threatening customer loyalty.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,000 people, and found shoppers believe product availability has become increasingly a problem since the onset of the pandemic – as reported by 71% of respondents. An additional three-quarters (75%) said product availability has worsened since the start of the cost of living crisis.

This was also a story amongst online shoppers, where incidents of ‘out of stock’ items have increased by six percentage points year-on-year, with 60% of customers now seeing out of stock items online.

The research finds shoppers pointing to an array or supply chain problems.

Almost three in five (57%) blamed the increasing cost of food production, and a further 56% pointed to inflation as the biggest factors impacting stock availability.

A further 43% said the increased costs of logistics were behind the issue, while 40% blamed Brexit.

Retail Insight CEO, Paul Boyle, said: “Regardless of the causes – of which there are many and, rather unjustly, a great number remain outside a retailer’s direct control – poor product availability doesn’t just impact customer experience at the shelf edge. It can cost retailers lost sales and, even more detrimental, long-term loyalty.”

Shortages were found to pose a greater threat to supermarkets.

The data found more than a quarter (27%) of shoppers said they would question their loyalty to a grocer if out-of-stocks became a regular occurrence.

A further 27% said they would switch their allegiance to a competitor supermarket.

Boyle added: “When items are unavailable, hidden or damaged, the resulting lost sales can be as much as 8% of revenue – an opportunity retailers can ill-afford to leave on the table.” 

Supermarkets have faced criticisms throughout the past year over their handling of the cost-of-living crisis.

They have faced accusations of “greedflation” and profiteering. Meanwhile, MPs are currently investigating the “fairness” of food supply chains to ensure profits are being distributed evenly throughout the supply chain.

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