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When was the last time you went to the grocery store and came home with everything on your list? Few of us are desperately seeking toilet paper anymore, but many retailers are still having trouble keeping their shelves stocked with everything their customers want, leaving some shoppers looking for alternatives or simply doing without.

In fact, a new survey finds that a majority of shoppers thinks out-of-stocks are worse now than they were during the height of pandemic panic-buying two years ago.

The data analytics company Retail Insight found that 71% of shoppers believe out-of-stocks in their local stores are worse than ever. While their fellow shoppers were largely to blame for 2020’s shortages, as panic buyers grabbed everything they could carry, survey respondents today are more likely to blame supply chain issues and staffing shortages. Two thirds of those surveyed believed better pay and working conditions could help retailers retain more employees who can keep their shelves stocked.

“For the most part, shoppers are understanding of the well-publicized and multifaceted pressures facing retailers in today’s challenging trading environment,” Retail Insight CEO Paul Boyle said in a statement. “But that does not stop poor availability, out-of-stocks and shelf-gaps from becoming… one of the biggest drivers of customer dissatisfaction.”

And it’s not just in-store shoppers who are noticing problems. During the early stages of the pandemic, many people chose to do their grocery shopping from the convenience of home, where they didn’t have to worry about crowds of panic buyers or empty spots on the shelves. But today’s online shoppers say things aren’t always so rosy online, either.

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61% of those surveyed by Retail Insight said they’ve experienced out-of-stocks online as well. Nearly half said they’ve noticed more items missing from, or substituted in, their online grocery orders. And 41% said they’ve noticed more outright mistakes in their orders.

A separate recent survey conducted by Shopkick found that 80% of shoppers said out-of-stocks are worse now than they were a year ago. Among the items that more than half of shoppers said are most frequently missing from their favorite stores are meat products, dairy products, boxed goods and toiletries.

Nevertheless, most shoppers are willing to make compromises if necessary. 65% of the Shopkick survey respondents said they would buy the next best option if their favorite brand was unavailable. And 61% of the Retail Insight survey respondents said they can usually find a substitute item if their preferred brand is out of stock.

“We estimate that retailers lose 8% of revenue through poor inventory availability, which, when combined with intensified competition and spiraling supplier and manufacturing costs, is revenue retailers simply cannot afford to leave on the table,” Boyle said.

So while shoppers may find out-of-stocks annoying, retailers are more likely to find them troubling. And with more shoppers saying out-of-stocks are an even bigger problem now than they were two years ago, the problem may get worse before it gets better. In the meantime, just look on the bright side – at least your stores finally have toilet paper again.

Image source: Daniel Ramirez

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