Out of stock: Five products that could be hard to come by this Christmas

While New Zealand is almost Covid-free, this country is not immune from the global supply issues caused by the pandemic.

That means you may not be able to get your hands on some items as freely as usual this Christmas season.

Retail NZ says stock delays have become significantly worse since August. Chief executive Greg Harford says it is hard to narrow down the items that are worst-affected by supply shortages because the delays are so widespread, affecting almost every retail category.

Harford says there are risks of shortages in homewares, and fashion and electronic items, among other categories, largely because of congestion and backlogs at New Zealand ports.

“We’re definitely at the peak, or the trough if you like, of the shortages,” he says.

“There’s three parts to the problem: one is manufacturing delays, but I think we’re mostly through that; the big issues now seem to be a) there seems to be less capacity coming down to New Zealand, fewer ships and few planes, and b) the big delays, particularly at the Ports of Auckland.”

How fast supply issues are resolved depends on what happens next with Covid, and how soon the ports can get on top of incoming shipments. In some cases, shiploads of stock have been forced to go back out to sea, after already being stuck there for weeks, as the ports struggle with capacity, says Harford.

“Retailers are doing their best to keep goods on the shelf.”

The Herald asked retailers what products are especially difficult to nab this season, and what you may want to leave off your Christmas list.


E-bikes are the gold standard right now, but regular bikes are also becoming a hot commodity.

Retail analyst Chris Wilkinson, managing director of First Retail Group, says some retailers are not expecting new stock of e-bikes until the middle of next year.

Some stores have also sold their last children’s bikes and won’t have any more in before Christmas, says Harford. Others are down to all that is left on the shelves.

Daniel Gallagher, of bike retailer 99Bikes, says e-bikes are in hot demand and short supply.”As soon as we get them, we sell out of them, and run out of them,” says Gallagher. “They will sell out in a week of the stock that comes in.

“They are all selling really quickly, whether it is the high-end expensive ones, they are going fast, and then if you’ve got the mid-level they’re going fast as well, and then $2000 entry-level, they are all going fast.”

Gallagher says e-bikes are in short supply as the biggest global Japanese parts manufacturer, Shimano, struggles to keep up with demand from all over the world.

“The last three years there has been a significant spike [in usage], but in the last six months since Covid we’ve had double the enquiries,” he says.

99Bikes has already ordered 2000 e-bikes for early next year, and Gallagher says regular mountain bikes and children’s bikes are selling out just as fast.

Mens' shirts

They aren’t exactly a must-have right now, but if you were thinking of gifting a formal shirt this Christmas, that could be a problem.

Richard Harford, of Wellington retailer Harford’s Menswear, says business shirts, and casual long-sleeved ones too, are hard to get.

The company put in an order for business and casual shirts from one supplier months in advance, but will not get the stock in until January and February next year.

“Looking forward to next season, because of Covid, our suppliers are not able to get overseas and put together ranges so there is going to be a little bit more limited stock available,” Harford told the Herald, adding that shipping and freight chains were causing the issues.

He says the limited supply of shirts is widespread across the industry. “This is a major manufacturer, they don’t just supply us, they supply multiple menswear retailers, and all of their customers will be experiencing the same thing.”


Orders for trampolines are also facing big delays, with waiting times that stretch out until February in some cases.

A salesperson from Springfree Trampolines says the company sold almost all of its Christmas stock back in March.

“Once we had the initial lockdown back in March, we faced demand that we had not planned for. We started to sell trampolines that were meant for the last quarter of the year, and when we got to this point now, we’re not getting the trampolines back in the country [fast enough] as international freight has become a problem.

“We sold the trampolines that were meant for this time of year earlier and now getting more product in the country has been really hard. It’s not only for us – that’s for pretty much all retailers.”

Demand soared during lockdown as people were stuck at home and a trampoline allowed children to be active without leaving their properties, the salesperson says.

Luxury cars

Wilkinson says car dealers have sold out of premium, high-end vehicles. The issue, he says, is that manufacturers are waiting for supplies of certain components.

“Because these supply chains have been arrested at different stages, it is now causing a lag; it now takes six weeks to get a car from the United Kingdom, for example,” says Wilkinson. “It’s across the board for luxury cars.”

He says high-end vehicles have been a hot buy in recent months as Kiwis redirected spending that traditionally would have gone towards an overseas holiday.

“People are treating themselves … it flows from the fact that people are feeling pretty comfortable about their property values, spiralling this spending [boom].”

Wilkinson says retailers find themselves in an odd place, facing stock shortages amid a strong spending surge. “You have this situation where there is such strong demand and there is nothing worse for a retailer than having demand that can’t be fulfilled.”

Washing machines

Would-be buyers of washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and other whiteware face long waiting lists.

“Some people are having to spend more in some cases as there aren’t the cheaper-end brands available,” says Wilkinson.

“It all comes down to the supply chain.”

He says a lot of the demand for whiteware is being driven by new house builds and home purchases, and manufacturers are struggling to keep up.

The problem is wider than whiteware: Ben Goodale, of advertising agency Quantum Jump, says electronics and appliances in general such as barbecues also face stock issues.

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