Supply constraints will last well into next year if not longer: Citi's Jim Suva
Shoppers looking for Apple Inc. devices this holiday season are facing a chilly reality: Most everything they might want to buy will take weeks to arrive.
Orders for the company’s newest products -- the iPhone 13, iPad mini, ninth-generation iPad, Apple Watch Series 7 and MacBook Pro -- won’t be fulfilled until November or December. Even some older devices, including the iMac announced in April, the Mac Pro and some pricier configurations of the MacBook Air, are seeing delays.
Having to wait for an Apple product is nothing new, with the annual release of the iPhone and other hot products bringing long lines and order backlogs. But this year the delays are spread more widely. And that threatens to undercut what could be Apple’s biggest sales quarter in its history.
The company is expected to generate nearly US$120 billion in the final three months of the year, up 7 per cent from a year earlier. That’s more than the combined quarterly sales of Best Buy Co., Costco Wholesale Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Target Corp.
In a year when Apple should be enjoying one of its biggest product-upgrade cycles ever, navigating the supply crunch is the “elephant in the room,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
The iPhone -- Apple’s flagship product, accounting for about half of its sales -- is the highest-profile case of shortages. One month after going on sale, the iPhone 13 Pro is hard to find in every color, configuration and size. That’s not usually the case, according to Apple store employees, some of whom say they’re increasingly dealing with frustrated customers.
If you order the product on Apple’s U.S. website, it won’t arrive until between Nov. 19 and Nov. 29, potentially later than the Thanksgiving holiday and even Black Friday. The same dates apply to Apple’s newest iPads. And the shortages extend to the company’s brick-and-mortar stores, with the majority of outlets seeing little to no supply of most models.
A spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple declined to comment. Its shares were little changed Thursday at US$149.32.
The season isn’t going smoothly for other tech giants either. Google has already seen many of its new Pixel 6 models go out of stock, while Amazon.com Inc.’s latest slate of devices isn’t launching until the end of 2021 at the earliest. Sony Group Corp.’s PlayStation 5 is still in tight supply after being on sale for almost a year, and Samsung Electronics Co. has warned of its own shortages.
The problems go far beyond the tech world. A logjam at U.S. ports and labor shortages have raised the specter of empty store shelves -- for gifts, food and other items -- during the holiday season. The situation looms over the economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Biden administration is scrambling to fix bottlenecks.
For Apple, certain components have been particularly hard to get. Short supplies from chipmakers like Broadcom Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. forced Apple to slash its iPhone 13 production targets for 2021 by as many as 10 million units, Bloomberg reported this month.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook warned of constraints in the company’s last quarterly earnings call, saying they are part of a larger industry shortage. Apple will report its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on Oct. 28.
Given its ability to mitigate supply-chain problems in the past, Apple could correct the imbalance before the end of December. Wall Street is generally upbeat. Launching so many products at once has been seen as a signal of confidence.
“Apple’s announcements suggest that it is significantly better at navigating these disruptions,” compared with other manufacturers, Citigroup Inc. analysts Jim Suva and Asiya Merchant said in a report.
But even some older Apple products are hard to get, a troubling sign. Apple’s website shows that new iPhone 11 shipments won’t arrive until mid-November, while the iPhone 12 is showing deliveries from between the end of this month and early next month. Retail employees said that such phones are also in low supply or out of stock at many store locations across the country.
Shoppers are waiting a month or more for the Apple Watch Series 7, which debuted earlier this month. That device suffered production snags related to its display production. Similar delays are hitting Apple’s older watches too.
The new MacBook Pro went on sale Monday and quickly saw order ship dates slip to between the middle and end of November depending on the configuration.
Less-pricey items that could be holiday “stocking stuffers” are easier to get. Supplies of the company’s newest AirPods and old AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max headphones, the HomePod mini, the AirTag item finder and the Apple TV are all available for near-immediate shipment from Apple’s website and many retail stores.
But even some of Apple’s least sophisticated products aren’t available. That includes the US$19 cleaning cloth that the company introduced this week.
The “iCloth” was mocked online -- particularly for its price -- and yet, enough people bought them to make supplies scarce. New orders won’t arrive for up to four months.