Have you recently been in the middle of a home project, placed an order and noticed that it’s taking what feels like an eternity for you to receive an email notification with these words “Your shipment has arrived. We will be in touch soon to schedule delivery”? We are living in unprecedented times and we are having to learn to adapt to lots of new changes.
Unfortunately, one of these ‘new changes’ is longer shipping lead times. Items that once took 8-10 weeks to ship, now could take from 18-26 weeks. I know it’s frustrating, but just know that this is something that’s happening with manufacturers all over the country, so you are not alone.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE DELAYS?
Most everyone is now aware there are issues in getting consumer products across virtually every category. Wealth and affluence have no leverage in getting products sooner. If you were unaware of the delays, you were still most likely impacted by them in some form. Even Amazon hasn’t been as predictable with 2-day shipping as they once were, and it’s not completely under their control.
There are many reasons behind the supply chain disruption, mostly Covid related, but not always. Let’s take a closer look.
#1 - Foam Shortage - The foam used for upholstery is currently being rationed due to the supply disruption. In late February this year, the major freeze that occurred in the Gulf Coast caused pipes to freeze that provided the chemicals required for flexible foam production. According to this article from Everchem, “Because foam is light and bulky, it is not efficient to ship very far to the various end-users such as furniture manufacturers, bedding, seating, and other customers. Consequently, the many foam plants are located close to the end-use markets and are spread around North America.”
#2 Textile Production Slowed - Many of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic are also regions that produce a significant amount of the textiles used in interiors including Asian countries Turkey, and India. Due to regional COVID “Stay-at-home” orders, some factories may be shut down at times stopping production.
#3 Shipping Container Gridlock - When factories came to a screeching halt, the flow of shipping containers did too. Containers that arrived in the Americas couldn’t be re-loaded and sent back to Asia. So containers began to pile up. Ports are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with the demand for manufactured goods. Manufacturers are having to wait weeks, if not months, for containers to ship their goods. In March of 2021, a 20,000 cargo ship became lodged in the Suez Canal, making matters worse
#4 Skilled Labor Shortage - In furniture manufacturing, there are specific techniques employed that can take years to master - such as upholstery techniques, sewing skills, pattern making, or spring tying. Furniture manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand for products when employees must quarantine or lose childcare. Many factories producing goods are also short-staffed, as well as labor for loading & unloading shipments.
#5 Wood Shortage - Lumber mills cut back production not anticipating the surge in demand that would come. Now, in a race to catch up on lumber production prices have soared. It is anticipated that prices will level off, but not likely to pre-pandemic levels. We are seeing some decreases in lumber prices, but other products such as hardware, tile, carpet, and lighting have all had price increases that are here to stay.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
How long we experience these delays is anyone’s guess. It’s likely we will continue to see the effects for years.
I encourage clients not to make compromises on quality or getting what you really want, just to save a few week’s time. In the grand scheme of things, we should be sourcing products that our clients will love for decades or even a lifetime. A few extra months, for quality pieces you’ll cherish, are surely worth the wait.
Have Perspective - We are all in this together. We are a globally interconnected web of people, products, and services. What are the things that really matter in the grand scheme of things?
Recognize Privilege - It is a tremendous privilege to be able to enjoy beautiful homes with nice things. When we recognize our privilege to work with an interior designer - and to be an interior designer - the experience will be delightful - not dreadful.
Extend Grace - The skilled workers, the port workers, the truckers, the textile weavers, the millworkers - are all the people who contribute to making our homes more beautiful. Many of these people are still living in communities ravaged by this pandemic and struggling to work and find childcare. Extending a little grace will help us all keep our heads on a little straighter.
This is not to say that the delays aren’t challenging. They most certainly are. But If you don’t laugh then you’ll cry. So we just keep doing our job… eventually the job will get done. I promise.
Designer: Kara Kersten [Kara Kersten Design], in collaboration with her family during the COVID-19 situation decided to bring all of their strengths & skill sets together to help people feel more happy in their homes.