November 9, 2021

8 Amazon Categories That Could Stockout This Holiday Season

By Pattern Data Science / Logistics & Fulfillment, Ecommerce Trends

It’s safe to say that the 2021 holiday shopping season is shaping up to be unlike any we’ve seen before. The phrase “supply chain” has gone from being limited to boardrooms and classrooms to something at the front of every shopper’s mind.

Still reeling from the long term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and suppliers are bracing for a holiday shopping season even more chaotic and stressful than last year’s. And stockouts in major categories are anticipated to be one of the biggest issues for 2021’s holiday ecommerce for both consumers and brands

Pattern conducted an analysis over the past 90 days to determine which Amazon categories are currently experiencing inventory stockouts and which are most likely to experience stockouts this holiday season. Considering this year’s substantial challenges, we share what we’ve learned for brands and consumers alike so they can prepare for what to successfully sell and purchase this 2021 holiday ecommerce season on Amazon. The big lesson? Brands cannot delay prepping for the holiday season.

Consumers expected to do even more holiday shopping online this year than ever before

Despite the uncertainty surrounding this year’s holiday shopping season, the National Retail Federation expects this to be the biggest holiday shopping season ever. Their 2021 forecast anticipates an 8.5% to 10% increase in holiday shopping sales compared to last year. No small feat, considering last year’s significant 8.2% increase from 2019’s shopping season.

The report also predicts even larger growth in ecommerce shopping this holiday season. They expect that online and other non-store sales will increase by 11% to 15% compared to 2020, which would account for between $218 and $226 billion in online sales.

Long story short: online demand is going to be at an all-time high this holiday season, which means it’s more important than ever for brands and businesses to get their inventory in before the holidays.

Which is why we felt it would be important to dive into our data and get a feel for which types of items are currently most (or least) on track to run out of stock this holiday season.

Here’s a quick look at the major categories on Amazon, and which ones are the most (and least) on track to run out of stock:

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Categories expected to be safest from holiday 2021 stockouts

We’ll start with the safe items. As you can see in the chart above, the following categories are those least likely to experience inventory shortages during the 2021 holidays:

  • Books
  • CDs & Vinyl
  • Beauty & Personal Care
  • Automotive
  • Electronics

Both the book category and the CDs and Vinyl category are, far and away, experiencing the least amount of stockout. So if you have a bookworm or a record collector on your shopping list, you can breathe easy. And if you supply these products, you may not need to panic call your warehouses.

Beauty and personal care is the next lowest item on the list, but it’s important to note that some items in this category are actually experiencing pretty high levels of stockout. For example, nail polish is currently 14% out of stock, and extensions & wigs are 11% out of stock. Items that are much safer in this category are moisturizers (3% out of stock), face masks (4%), and bath and bathing accessories (4%).

Automotive items are well-stocked, but again, some automotive items like protective gear, seat covers, and accessories are on track to experience some stockouts.

It may come as a surprise to some, but tech manufacturers have done a fairly good job of keeping their items in stock and available to consumers this year despite the many supply chain challenges and chip shortages. Items that appear to be safest in this category include: networking products, cord management items, desktops, laptops, and monitors. Cameras and surveillance equipment, however, may be much harder to find.

Amazon categories most at risk for holiday 2021 stockouts

Here are the categories most likely to experience widespread stockouts this holiday shopping season:

  • Clothing
  • Sports & Outdoors
  • Patio, Lawn & Garden
  • Home & Kitchen
  • Baby Products
  • Tools & Home Improvement

Within these categories are several subcategories especially at risk. We’ve broken some of them down below.

1. Clothing

This year, clothing is the category experiencing the highest levels of stockout as we enter the holiday shopping season. Here’s a deeper look at which types of clothing are going to be the hardest (or easiest) to get your hands on this year:

As you can see, shoppers are going to be struggling to find all types of clothing this holiday season.

Activewear is currently the subcategory most on track to run out, with over a quarter of the inventory currently out of stock. Girls clothing is the next most out of stock, with costumes & accessories not far behind (which is to be expected on the heels of Halloween).

Multiple types of clothing are already seeing more than 20% of their inventory out of stock, including: lingerie, sleep and lounge, tops, tees, blouses, and men’s clothing.

Even the subcategories at the bottom of the list, like sweaters and baby clothing, are on track to see dangerously low levels of inventory by the end of the shopping season. So if you’re in the clothing industry, it’s going to be more important than ever to stay ahead of demand as much as possible in the weeks and months ahead.

2. Appliances

It looks like the cooking and baking trend that started in the early days of the pandemic hasn’t slowed down at all. Cooktops, ovens, ranges, and range hoods are on track to be especially difficult to get your hands on as the 2021 holidays approach.

Ice makers, refrigerators, and freezers are also experiencing low inventory levels expected to stretch into the holidays. So shoppers looking to upgrade their kitchen ahead of holiday gatherings or as a holiday present should be encouraged to make those big purchases as soon as possible.

3. Sports & Outdoors

Once again, it’s clothing that’s at real risk of a holiday shortage, as 21% of outdoor clothing is currently out of stock. Water bottles, a popular go-to gift for any friend or family member, are in danger of running out of stock already. As, it seems, are many other smaller types of sports and outdoor accessories.

Fan-related items like team gear, jerseys, t-shirts, etc. are also experiencing high levels of low inventory.

4. Patio, Lawn & Garden

The middle of winter may not feel like peak patio or lawn and garden shopping time for many parts of the country, but the category is on track to experience some stockout all the same.

Outdoor decor, doormats, plant containers, and flags might all be tough to get your hands on this holiday shopping season. Even more summer-associated items like garden hoses and patio furniture are running low levels on inventory, which may be following seasonality of demand.

5. Home & Kitchen

Last year was huge for home and kitchen item sales. With the pandemic keeping millions of people inside their houses for much of the year, this category was the #2 most likely to experience stockout in our 2020 analysis.

It may have dropped to #5 this year, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have problems finding certain home and kitchen items this holiday shopping season.

Travel and to-go food containers actually top this list this year, with bedding not far behind. Bath, home decor, and furniture may all experience shortages this holiday shopping season as well.

Small appliances, bakeware, and cookware, meanwhile, are all far less on track to run out of inventory. This suggests that after having refreshed their kitchen during the first year of the pandemic, many Americans are now moving on to the bedroom and the bathroom this year.

6. Baby Products

Baby products have been seeing a higher spike in stockouts once again this year. Blankets and swaddling are low in inventory as well as storage and organization, baby bedding, nursery items, bathing, and furniture.

Whether you’ve got a new baby at home, are expecting one before the holidays, or have new parents on the shopping list, you shouldn’t wait to make these holiday purchases this year.

7. Tools & Home Improvement

Unsurprisingly, masks, respirators, and PPE top the list of tools and home improvement supplies experiencing the lowest inventory levels.

String lights are already running low on inventory, so if you’re postponing putting up your Christmas lights, you might want to rethink that idea.

Other items in this category that are at risk of running out of inventory this year include building materials, safety and security equipment (which we also saw running low in our electronics category as well), and cords, adapters, and multi-outlets.

8. Musical Instruments

Don’t procrastinate shopping for the musicians on your list this year. Popular instruments like guitars, drums, and general band and orchestra instruments are all starting to run low on inventory already.

Other popular at-home music options like ukuleles, home studio equipment, and keyboards, are also in danger of running low this year as many people chose to spend that extra at-home pandemic time making music and have depleted Amazon’s inventory.

A quick look at other subcategories most at risk of holiday 2021 stockout

Now that we dove deep in the top 8 categories most likely to experience stockout, we wanted to examine the subcategories across other categories we looked at to see which ones are the most on track to run out of inventory this holiday shopping season.

Here are the 10 subcategories most at risk of stockout from the rest of the categories in our analysis:

A lesson for brands

Our data reinforces the idea that the holiday shopping season 2021 might see higher levels of stockout than any year before.

Better understanding inventory levels and consumer demand is more important than ever. Running out of inventory on a popular item early in the shopping season can quickly and easily sour your relationship with retail partners, leaving them eager to find someone more equipped to manage their inventory. It can also leave your Amazon listing available for another seller to grab the buy box.

Plus, stockouts can leave the end consumer feeling frustrated with your brand both this year and even in the future. Either way, staying ahead of your inventory is a crucial part of preparing your brand for the 2021 holiday shopping season. Pattern’s proprietary software can help brands forecast demand, avoid stockouts and missed sales, and advertise effectively across all inventory levels.

To learn how Pattern can help you leverage your data so your business can succeed this holiday season and beyond, schedule a demo today.

More Resources
Adjusting Existing Distributor Relationships
Amazon Revenue Growth Hacks—Unlock 4 Strategies to Accelerate Your Growth