SAN FRANCISCO -- If you're shopping early for the holidays, you're not alone. Consumers spent over $72 billion online last month. That's an increase of eight percent from a year ago but many are also encountering an inventory shortage.
Even with Christmas over six weeks away, online shoppers are encountering big disappointment with over two billion "out of stock" notices over the past month.
"It's not surprising at all, and I think it's going to continue honestly through the holiday season and beyond," said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, which tracks tens of thousands of online retail sites and trillions of their transactions.
The most frequent "out of stock" categories are electronics, jewelry, apparel, home and garden, and pet products.
It's all tied to U.S. ports backed up and supply chain issues slowing delivery of imported goods, especially computer chips.
Even items in stock are in limited supply as a result of shoppers concerned about shortages. Toy sales shot up 50 percent last month compared to a year ago.
"Now I'm worried about it," said San Jose resident Ruben Barraza. "I think I'm going to figure out what I can get, but I think we're going to have to be creative this year."
There is probably nothing worse than an empty shopping cart, whether it's at the store or online. So experts are saying that a lot of people may end up having to buy gift cards instead. Gift cards will give recipients the option to get a scarce item later when stock is replenished or to choose something else. Because some in-demand items are out of stock, retailers may not be as generous with discounts.
"They're going to be cutting back their discounts by an average of about three to five percentage points, so it'll be material in terms of how big a dip you'll get in prices as a consumer," said Adobe Digital Insights' Schreiner.
That doesn't mean there won't be Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, but retailers will need to make up for lost profits from a lack of inventory.
"Look for the things you want to buy right now and get them if you can because I can't guarantee they're going to be available to you later," said Schreiner.