“We’re chasing inventory, just like everyone else.” That’s how a client recently responded when I asked him what he’s been up to, and the crazy part was, this response wasn’t surprising at all. In many industries, almost everyone actually has been “chasing inventory” ever since the COVID pandemic brought record-breaking demand surges and model-breaking supply chain disruptions.

Empty Store Shelves

No Shortage of Shortages

The COVID shortage story started with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but it soon expanded to everything from coins to kettlebells, and eventually affected most of the electronics categories that gap intelligence tracks.

This situation also helped elevate our once-humble Online In-Stock Status data field to one of the most important metrics that we provide, as clients quickly started using it to manage their own “inventory chases” and benchmark their efforts against the competition. This field received more attention in the last 6 months than during the previous 17 years combined, by far.

In-Stock Stories

It turns out that Online In-Stock Status also tells a heck of a story, showing when COVID undersupplies caught up with each category or brand and how well each category/brand rebuilt inventories. As the following In-Stock Status stories will show you, every category experienced COVID in its own way:

Printers – It has been amazing to witness how COVID affected Personal & SOHO Printer inventories. Within weeks of the lockdown, work-from-home demand cleared nearly 25% of these sub-$400 printers from online channels and availability has continued to slide almost every week since then. As a result, the number of Personal & SOHO Printers that are actually available for purchase online is down 73% compared to mid-March, making this arguably the most COVID-impacted category that gap intelligence tracks. It’s also the only category that’s shown no signs of a rebound.

Notebook PCs – Notebooks have been the star of most news stories about the great electronics shortage of 2020. This makes a lot of sense considering notebooks’ crucial role in both working and studying from home. However, after dropping by 35% in March, online notebook inventories have actually remained relatively stable since then. The one BIG exception is Chromebooks, which currently has an 87% lower online assortment than its 2020 peak, after enduring two waves of student demand. Although this Chromebook shortage is creating plenty of short-term headaches, it’s certainly good news for Google in the long-term, considering that millions of kids just became ChromeOS natives.

Televisions – Televisions have a very different COVID inventory story than most other categories, as TV shortages happened later and TV inventories rebounded much faster. What’s their secret? Much of the surge in TV demand came from the 160 million stimulus checks that the IRS sent out in Q2, which created a sudden strain, but also allowed for a much more effective rebound. Unless Congress decides to pull the trigger on a second round of stimulus checks, TVs are one of the best examples of a category that is on its way to actually rebuilding inventories.

The Inventory Rebound

It’s hard to predict when or how anything will go back to normal right now, and it’s likely that many manufacturers will continue chasing inventory throughout the holidays, even after their Online In-Stock Status trends level-out. The good news is, inventory levels definitely have a spot on the long list of things that just have to get better in 2021, and gap intelligence clients have a solid tool to guide their inventory rebounds until then.

For more than 17 years, gap intelligence has served manufacturers and sellers by providing world-class services monitoring, reporting, and analyzing the 4Ps: prices, promotions, placements, and products. Email us at info@gapintelligence.com or call us at 619-574-1100 to learn more.