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You would think so. From the end-consumer viewpoint, that would seem to be a logical assumption. You reason it as: “There shouldn’t be as many people buying online, many stores are now open, so inventory should be building back up, and if I place my order today I should have it in a few days. So where is it?”
The problem may not be with the retailer. In fact, most retailers, whether brick-and-mortar or e-commerce, are still feeling the pain. Your pain.
Thanks to the global pandemic and the effect it had on manufacturing a year ago! Yes, it has been over a year since manufacturing facilities in China and Southeast Asia began slowing down, then shutting down. The ones that were able to remain open in some capacity felt the pinch when their supplies started to dry up. And shipping slowed down and then stopped. And warehouses and shelves here became empty and the merry-go-round of world commerce ground to a halt.
Although that merry-go-round has started up, it is not even near full speed or capacity. Like so many things in life, starting something back up takes much more energy and time than shutting it down.
Shipping from overseas is still backed up, with industry experts projecting it to be the same through mid-2021. There just aren’t enough empty containers available overseas to load products that are beginning to backup in warehouses over there. Part of that is because those containers have made their way to the U.S. (and, shocker, every other country that imports goods!), but are sitting in ports to be delivered to warehouses and retailers here. Why, you ask, are they sitting at the ports?
There has been a shortage of trucks and drivers for several years, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. “No way,” you say, “there are 18-wheelers everywhere!” Well, not as many as it takes. So not only are containers and ships in short supply, so too are the trucks and drivers here. And the ones on the road are delivering lots of other things, like food, clothing, and toilet paper!
Another issue, as if we needed another one, is due to the trade tariffs imposed on China. Manufacturers dealt with the increase in price due to tariffs by moving their production to Southeast Asia countries, including Vietnam. While that resulted in lower production costs, those countries lack the extensive production, warehousing, and transportation infrastructure of China. While that is improving, it too is still not where it needs to be to meet U.S. and global demand.
A lot of materials used in production in China and Southeast Asia actually come from the U.S. What? Yes, lumber used in furniture comes, in part, from the U.S. And that means there have to be ships and containers to move the product to the production facilities there. That’s one way of repositioning containers overseas to get your furniture or decor accessory order to here. Shipping companies don’t want to, or simply won’t, take empty containers back overseas because there is no revenue in doing that. But now companies are paying to get those empty containers rather than waiting. And that cost will be passed to the consumer in higher prices. Crazy, right?!
Some companies are taking the steps to reduce ocean-transit time by relocating the production to Mexico, but there exists the same problem with infrastructure and facilities as with the Southeast Asia countries. And it cannot happen overnight, not just with facilities and infrastructure, but training the workforce in the production techniques to achieve the same level of quality as overseas. Developing skills for more involved pieces and finishes takes time.
There still are furniture and décor accessory manufacturers here in the U.S. Just not as many as there used to be, and not enough to catch up with demand. Some rely on supplies from, yeah, you guessed it. Overseas.
It’s just a real mish-mash mess.
We hope this helps to clear things up. Know we are all in the shipping mess together, and are working to make the experience as tolerable and pleasant as possible.
Have a question or would like advice about a furniture or home décor purchase or idea? Start a chat on our website, email Sales@HarleyButler.com, or call us at (469)629-8014 at any time. We look forward to helping.
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