Persistent global supply chain challenges resulting in months of waiting for devices
When Amy Studholme visited The Brick shortly after Boxing Day last year, she couldn’t have imagined that almost a year later she would still be without the devices she had ordered.
Studholme had ordered a refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher. The stove arrived within a few weeks, she said, but it turned out to be defective; she had to pay several hundred dollars more for another one that was in stock. Her dishwasher only recently arrived at the store, but now she’s waiting for her fridge so she can bring both of them home at the same time.
“Basically every month I was told by The Brick that my devices would be coming next month. Next month we’re in October – I’m told November now. But I’m not optimistic, ”she said.
Studholme said she made several phone calls and even visited the store.
“The most frustrating piece is that there is no accountability on their behalf,” she said. “Every time my devices are supposed to be here, I arrange – then there is a new appointment.”
Studholme is among a number of customers who told CBC News that they had waited several months for devices ordered from various stores during the pandemic.
According to the Retail Council of Canada, the ongoing global challenges in the supply chain are causing some retailers to report that the situation has worsened with product delays, shortages and higher prices.
Whirlpool Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of large appliances, said it was working hard to meet these challenges in order to continue to meet consumer demands.
Economists and retailers predict things will get better in 2022, but it’s a frustrating time for those waiting for devices now.
Phil Saleh ordered new Maytag appliances from The Brick last October and is still waiting for his fridge. At the time, he was told that delivery could be delayed by a few months.
“It was like, ‘It will come in January.’ A week or two before that time goes by, they said, ‘It’s coming in another two weeks.’ ‘It’s coming in another week,’ “he said.
“Then it was August. Then it was from August 2022. So I come to a year and count.”
For months, Saleh said, his family of four settled for a mini-fridge until someone offered to give them a fridge that they wanted to get rid of.
“We paid quite a bit of money for this refrigerator that didn’t show up,” he said. “I can cancel the order, but if I buy a comparable refrigerator now, it’s probably at least 30 percent more expensive … because the prices have gone up.”
Like Studholme, Saleh said he was most frustrated with the lack of communication and changing information.
Pandemic to blame for ongoing supply chain problems
Device shortages due to global supply chain problems and booming demand first appeared around this time last year. The situation has not improved yet, said Michelle Wasylyshen, spokeswoman for the Retail Council of Canada.
“First, parts for a whole range of products are often sourced from abroad. When COVID outbreaks occur, different countries adapt different policies, which can have a serious impact on the global supply chain, “she said in a statement sent via email.
“We saw this in China and Vietnam, where ports were closed for weeks as COVID outbreaks were dealt with across the world.”
Retailers are doing their best to keep the price increases going, Wasylyshen said, as sales volumes have increased too, helping to offset higher supply chain costs. For consumers, however, this also means that some deliveries will take longer than before the pandemic.
The problem is complex, but it started when everything slowed down in March 2020 when the pandemic hit and economies around the world collapsed, said Dave Johnston, professor of operations management and information systems at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto .
“That meant that orders for everything, such as equipment, were slowed down, and all of the components that flow into those equipment were slowed down,” he said. “And then we came back after the vaccination was introduced – and suddenly our economy accelerated again.”
When the orders stopped last March, some of the factories that make components for devices took action such as laying off employees and stopping material orders, Johnston said.
“It takes time to restart this,” he said. “In our global economy, it is very difficult to go from a feast to a famine quickly.”
Canada’s hot housing market has also contributed to a surge in appliance sales, he noted, adding another layer of demand.
In addition to production, COVID-related public health actions have also impacted global shipping routes, the ports where goods arrive and facilities such as warehouses.
Estimating when the supply chain will be back to business is “a guessing game,” Johnston said, but his forecast is that things should catch up in various industries sometime in 2022.
His advice? Unless you’re necessarily looking for a new device, it might be a good idea to wait.
The Ontario Department of Government and Consumer Services said in a statement it cannot comment on the possibility of a supply shortage for retail businesses as it is outside of its remit.
“According to the Consumer Protection Act, when a consumer orders a product or service, it must be delivered within 30 days of the delivery or start date. If delivery does not take place by then, the consumer has the right to terminate the contract at any time revoked – before the product is delivered or the service commenced, “said a spokesman.
Customers can also file complaints with Consumer Protection Ontario, the spokesman said.
“Very challenging times,” says the retailer
CBC News has requested a comment from The Brick and has received no response.
Whirlpool Corporation, which operates both the Whirlpool and Maytag brands, said in an email that its 15,000 factory employees in the US have worked tirelessly to meet consumer needs.
However, it found that implementing security measures to make the facilities COVID-proof can have an impact on production lines and production rates.
“Our plants have experienced some brief production stoppages in the context of the pandemic, including component or material shortages, but have remained in operation overall during this challenging period,” the statement said.
Josh Luftspring, co-owner of Best Brand Appliance in the North York area of Toronto, says dealing with these delays has been non-stop.
“These are very challenging times,” he said. “There is a lot of demand in Toronto. People now see their homes as their locks, they want to renovate and feel more comfortable around them.”
The surge in demand and product shortages around the world are a recipe for disaster, he said.
“If the supply chain doesn’t get semiconductors, chips, chemicals for insulation in the refrigerators, everything falls down – customers can’t get their product, there are delays. It’s becoming a bit of a nightmare. ”
Luftspring said his company is doing its best to provide all of the information to customers, but it is not always correct as the information from its suppliers is not always correct.
His sales force now urges customers to save their old appliances when the renovation begins – not throw them away or sell them online. “Keep them as a backup,” he said, “because unfortunately our data is not correct.”
Luftspring and his team hope that production will be fully and smoothly again in 2022. Meanwhile, he also encourages customers to be patient with everyone in the industry.
“Hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel … we have to fight, our competitors have to fight and our suppliers have to fight.”