What Christmas shortages and restrictions do Britons expect, and how upsetting would they be?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
October 28, 2021, 8:13 AM GMT+0

Parcel delays and restrictions on household mixing have the greatest potential to upset people this winter

With Britain still in the grip of the supply chain crisis, the media have been reporting industry concerns that certain products will be in short supply for Christmas this year.

Additionally, with COVID cases remaining stubbornly high, talk has turned to the necessity of reintroducing restrictions during the festive period.

How plausible do Britons consider these warnings? And how much would it actually matter to people if they weren’t able to fulfil some Christmas traditions this year?


Britons are most likely to expect big delays in parcel deliveries for online shopping (58%). This includes 17% who consider it “very likely”. That being said, fewer Britons think it will actually be harder to find Christmas presents this year (37%).

Being unable to give loved ones presents this year is one of the most upsetting prospects to Britons, with 60% of people saying they would find this distressing. People are far less bothered by the potential that they themselves would not receive any gifts as a result of supply shortages, at just 27%.

This means that the prospect of present delays and being unable to give people presents is the most upsetting scenario that Britons consider most likely to happen.

Seeing loved-ones

The most upsetting thing that could happen at Christmas this year is being unable to see close family. Three quarters (74%) of Britons say this would rile them, including 45% who would be “very upset”. Most Brits would also be upset about not being able to see friends (54%), as would 44% at the prospect of not seeing extended family.

Far fewer people see this as a realistic prospect than parcel shortages, however. In their role as Ghosts of Christmas Yet to Come, only one in three Britons (32%) see it as likely that new restrictions will be put in place preventing people from mixing with those from outside their household. A lower number (17%) go further still, expecting a festive return to full national lockdown, including restrictions on leaving the home.


Many Britons also expect shortages of turkey this year (49%), following stories in the press. However, few Britons would actually be bothered by the lack of a gobbler on the table (18%).

Four in ten people (40%) think there will be shortages of pigs in blankets, with 19% saying they’d be upset if they couldn’t have the double-pork treats.

Previous YouGov research has shown that roast potatoes are the most important component of a Christmas dinner, and the data bears this out. While far fewer Britons expect shortages of potatoes (20%), almost half the population (47%) would be distraught if they couldn’t have tubers for their festive feast.

Grazing around mealtimes could also be affected, with reports emerging that Quality Street could be in short supply. One in five Britons suspect there will be shortages of chocolate selection boxes (22%), while a similar proportion would be upset if this came to pass (20%).


Across the board, younger Britons are more likely to be upset by the potential Christmas restrictions and shortages than their older counterparts. The only exceptions are for seeing close and extended family, where levels of distress are largely consistent across the generations.

Because a person’s vote is so heavily connected to their age, this does mean that Labour voters are more likely to be upset about potential shortages than Tories. However, the gap here is narrower than between generations alone. Labour voters are, however, substantially more likely than Conservative voters in many cases to expect Christmas shortages.