While we are slowing seeing things return to normal socially after the pandemic, it’s another story for many businesses that are now facing another challenge: longer wait times to get the product to supply their customers need.
Tom Barber, owner of Barber & Haskill, your one-stop appliance and mattress store in Midland, said that wait times for certain appliances is into spring of 2023, and currently, they’re waiting on 4,500 appliances. Products like fridges, stoves and dishwashers used to come within days, now it’s months.
Barber explains that early in the pandemic when everything shut down, so did manufacturing. However, they quickly realized that people were still going to need appliances, fridges were still going to break and that the demand wasn’t going to dry up.
“We were sitting on a bunch of appliances in our warehouse so we were fine for the first little while and but when that was sold, suddenly there was no supply,” he said.
Mid-pandemic, when manufacturing began to start up slowly with precautions like social distancing and frequent cleaning protocols, caused production to be lower than normal.
“So people were still buying and they weren’t making anything, and then when they did start making things they made it much slower than they used to, but the demand actually went up because people were stuck at home using fridges, washers and dryers more than they ever had,” Barber said. “Luckily for us we started booking product, predicting what our customer might need well in advance.”
Today, the industry still finds itself trying to catch up. Barber said the current issues of slower shipping of goods, along with inflation and the current labour shortages, are causing major delays with the appliances and the parts they need for service and repair, which is frustrating for them and their customers.
“At the end of the day, we are two-and-a-half years into the problem and still, for example, if I order a Bosch dishwasher…they’ll tell me it will not arrive until April of 2023, but we have learned that even dates that far out are just a guesstimate, and now we’re seeing products get discontinued before they ship,” he said.
What customers can do if they are awaiting an appliance or looking to purchase a new appliance set
Currently, Barber said their biggest challenge is seeing their customers frustrated because they want to buy a package of appliances for their new kitchen that match, but some suppliers simply cannot make a full set of appliances with any consistency.
“Depending on the brand that fridge might be a year away or that dishwasher might be a year away and it might say it’s only three months away but it keeps getting extended, and the poor customer is sitting there waiting with a brand new kitchen that they only have half the appliances for,” he said. “It’s just real frustration from their perspective and from ours.”
While this issue can’t be helped, Barber said there are some things customers can do instead.
Try to focus on features instead of matching appliances
Barber said they’re having frequent conversation with their customers about this option because it’s very difficult to get a package set of the same brand appliances.
Focus on the features means being flexible and basing your appliance purchase on what you need rather than the brand or everything matching perfectly, because what’s most important right now is getting the product you need.
Fix and service your appliances whenever possible
While they do have an in-house service and repair department, Barber said not only is there a current shortage in availability of parts but due to inflation, prices for these parts have gone up.
That said, they are seeing a lot of people choosing to fix their appliances rather than buy new ones when it is more economical and the parts are readily available. He said this is a better solution, especially for those who want to have a complete kitchen set.
Buy something that is already in stock or a brand that is shipping that particular appliance regularly
While there are delays in appliance shipping, Barber said each brand is different. For example, Bosch may have delays with their dishwashers but their fridges are readily available.
So, if you need a certain appliance right away, he suggests either keeping your old fridge until your order comes in or buying from a retailer that has it in stock.