Consumers who listen long enough begin to assume there is a shortage of everything. “Merely being reminded of product scarcity, or being told that they must do their holiday shopping early due to supply chain related shortages, makes consumers more likely to act in their own selfish interests,” according to Virginia Tech marketing professor and consumer behavior expert Shilpa Madan.

Electronics, furniture, appliances, turkeys, pies, Christmas trees, even champagne for New Year’s Eve. It’s all backordered and held up in the supply chain, or so we hear.

“Resource scarcity of any kind, including the products that consumers may want to buy, is shown to foster a ‘competitive mindset’ – prompting them to keep their own interests front and center,” said Madan. “Simply put, research shows that such scarce deals can even result in consumer aggression. This is because deals that limit product quantities inherently pit consumers against each other and lead them to see others as competitive threats blocking their access to coveted goods.”

Madan offers advice to those trying not to panic shop:

·        If these scarce products are meant to be gifts, the age-old wisdom of ordering gifts early still applies! If you cannot find your first choice, look for substitutes — most consumer goods are made by multiple companies, and sites like Etsy and eBay can prove valuable in finding substitutes.

·        Another idea to avoid supply chain constraints is to buy domestically made, local products. US-based supply chains are running better than global ones, and hence, local products could be more readily available than foreign-made ones.

·        If you are absolutely unable to get your hand on a coveted item, give the recipient a gift card for that company or retailer. They might have to wait a bit longer for that cherished item, but it's better than something they do not want or like. And anyway, research shows that half the fun is in anticipation.

·        Companies worldwide are working at various steps in the supply chain to resolve the backlogs and constraints, so it is unlikely that staple goods will be in short supply for long.

Shilpa Madan is an Assistant Professor of Marketing, in Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.  

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