Holiday 2020 Analysis: The 8 Amazon Categories Most Likely to Experience Stockouts

Hamilton Noel

October 5, 2020

It’s the messiest time of the year, at least when it comes to ecommerce. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to affect businesses, supply chains, and inventory across the globe, this year’s holiday season is projected to look a bit more chaotic than years past. Stockouts in major categories are anticipated to be one of the biggest issues for holiday 2020 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 the substantial consumer behavior shifts in 2020, we share what we’ve learned for brands and consumers alike so they can prepare for what to successfully sell and purchase this 2020 holiday ecommerce season on Amazon.

Shifting holiday consumer behavior: More shopping online, less brand loyalty

What makes this holiday season a cocktail of uncertainty is the additional factor of shifting consumer behavior due to the pandemic. In August, Fluent forecasted a 73% increase in consumers who shop exclusively online this holiday season.

Additional data from Qubit indicates that consumer loyalty is on the decline, with 36.6% of consumers saying they now shop with more brands than they did a year ago and 46.2% saying they are less loyal to the brands they love.

Much of this data is due to supply chain interruptions and inventory stockouts at the start of the pandemic that pushed consumers to other brands, and with the potential for a big second COVID-19 wave looming, it’s more important than ever to get your inventory in before the holidays.

Categories expected to be safe from holiday 2020 stockouts

We’ll start with the safe items. The following categories are those least likely to experience inventory shortages during the 2020 holidays:

  • Electronics
  • Musical instruments
  • Arts and crafts
  • Cell phone accessories
  • Automotive

Tech manufacturers in particular have done a good job of keeping their items in stock and available to consumers this year, and the data shows things like chargers, computer monitors, and laptop accessories are pretty safe.

There are some outliers within these categories. Car seat covers, protective gear, and accessories, for example, are expected to see stockouts in the automotive category.

‘Tis also the season for strumming. Another exception in this category are guitars. Guitars are selling fast and the instrument most likely to see inventory shortages in the music category for holiday 2020. That’s one you’ll want to get ahead of now.

Amazon categories most at risk for holiday 2020 stockouts

Here are the categories you’ll want to pay close attention to for holiday 2020 on ecommerce. They’re the most likely to experience widespread stockouts during the holidays:

  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Appliances
  • Sports & Outdoors
  • Home & Kitchen
  • Baby Products
  • Pet Supplies

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

1. Appliances

Some items that will be especially difficult to get your hands on as the 2020 holidays approach are ice makers, refrigerators, and freezers. With the colder months approaching, along with fears of a second wave of the pandemic, emergency preparedness is on many consumers’ minds and they’re buying these products early to make sure they have lots of space to store their perishable food products.

Aside from refrigerators and freezers, ranges, range hoods, ovens, and cooktops are also experiencing stockouts right now that are expected to stretch into the holidays. Small appliances, like toasters and microwaves, are also on the move.

2. Home & Kitchen

Shoppers have been buying lots of home and kitchen products as stay-at-home orders have been prolonged, and that trend will continue into the 2020 holidays on ecommerce. With the extra time at home and the additional challenge of having to create workspaces at home, consumers are refurnishing their houses in large numbers. Furniture is seeing shortages right now that are expected to continue through the end of the year.

Shoppers are also making their outlets and tech go further while they’re working from home. Cords, adapters, and multi-outlets are also experiencing shortages right now.

People are investing more in their outdoor patio spaces this year. Patio furniture and accessories as well as doormats are also experiencing stockouts. Another subcategory that’s a hot commodity now is bedding. Right now, consumers are trading out their coverlets for comforters as sweater weather arrives.

This was true for March and April, and it will be true throughout the rest of the year: all-purpose cleaners are experiencing shortages. The impending flu and cold season combined with COVID-19 are once again driving customers to buy health and household goods. A notable exception is vitamins and supplements, which are unlikely to go out of stock.

3. Clothing

Clothing had a fairly rocky start of the year, excluding items like pajama pants and shirts, but purchases are picking up as people have slowly begun to leave their houses more. The men and boys categories in particular are expected to have holiday stockouts. Bra and underwear sales have seen unusual spikes as the summer’s come to an end, with lingerie in particular experiencing stockouts right now.

4. Office Products

With social distancing measures still in place, more and more consumers are getting crafty and communicating the old fashioned way. Greeting cards and card stock are seeing big stockouts right now, possibly because shoppers are sending more get well cards. With families spending more time apart this year and Christmas card season peeking right over the horizon, you’ll want to make sure your card inventory is stocked early. Cards are going to go fast.

Additional products we’re seeing shortages of are binders and paper.

5. Sports & Outdoors Equipment

Twenty-twenty is the year of the at-home workout, and early inventory indicators show that strength training equipment is very likely to see stockouts this holiday season as customers continue to beef up their home gyms. In addition to strength training equipment, consumers are also buying yoga related equipment in large numbers, so make sure to hop on that early, too.

Additional products seeing shortages in this subcategory right now are sports and outdoors clothing, water bottles, and fan-related goods, like jerseys and t-shirts.

6. Baby Products

Baby products have been seeing a higher spike in stockouts this fall. That’s possibly due to more family planning happening during COVID-19. Blankets and swaddling are low in inventory as well as baby bedding, diapering, pacifiers, sippy cups, and activities/entertainment for babies. You’ll want to start now to make sure your baby inventory is pretty well-stocked across the board.

7. Beauty & Personal Care

While most beauty subcategories have struggled with sales in 2020, there are some exceptions. Shampoo and conditioner are experiencing stockouts right now. Another item flying off the shelves is nailpolish. That’s one product to look at right now instead of waiting.

8. Pet Supplies

Pet supplies are generally safe. However, as more people are buying pets and spending more time at home with their pets, pet beds and pet furniture are experiencing stockouts. Those are the items to look at in the pets category.

The trick to doing well on ecommerce this 2020 holiday season may just be to stay ahead with your inventory. Pattern’s proprietary software can help brands forecast demand and avoid stockouts and missed sales. To learn how Pattern can help your business succeed this holiday season and beyond, contact us in the form below. Check out our holiday to-do list for Amazon sellers to learn more.

Methodology For this analysis, we took a sample of about ~70K of the current most popular products on Amazon, as measured by rank. This plays out to be about 4,000 products for every major category on Amazon. We used the Keepa database to pull product information and look at historic stockouts in the past 90 days for these products. We then aggregated stockout rates at general category levels as well as subcategories within those general categories.

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