(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 7th June 2021) London, Uk – –
Some firms are struggling to secure summer items like garden furniture, picnic baskets and outdoor toys, as consumers prepare to holiday in the UK.
About 60% of British suppliers have experienced import delays in the past month, according to customs clearance platform KlearNow.
The six-day-long Suez Canal blockage in March is partly to blame, as goods meant to arrive weeks ago are still stuck on container ships elsewhere.
But there are other factors at play.
KlearNow based its findings on interviews with 300 import-export businesses based in the UK.
“A combination of Covid-19 restrictions, the backlog from the Suez Canal blockage, increasing global demand for shipping containers, disruption to shipping caused by India's public health crisis and a shortage of packaging materials means UK businesses are already struggling to meet summer demand,” said KlearNow's chief executive Sam Tyagi.
“With competition for container space so high, some smaller businesses are simply being priced out of landing the goods and materials that they need.”
Items like camping equipment have seen a spike in demand as more British families look to domestic holidays, with the government tightening rules on international travel rules and moving Portugal to the amber list.
Since many popular products are manufactured in China, retailers are being impacted by shortages in their supply chains and US retailers have experienced similar problems procuring summer essential items.
Heather Attwooll of camping and outdoor equipment retailer Attwoolls, is still waiting on orders placed in October and has nine containers of outdoor clothing, camping gear and hiking equipment stuck in Egypt as a result of the Suez Canal blockage.
“The early May bank holiday was the busiest bank holiday we've ever experienced… But there is a risk that small businesses like ours will soon be unable to meet that demand due to supply chain problems out of our control.
“All of the garden furniture we normally source from China was bought up by Walmart [in the US], for example.”
Garden toys, games and picnic baskets are also being held up by delays, said Katherine Rhodes of the retailer PomPom.
“We're experiencing delays of up to four months on wooden toys coming from the Far East, handmade baskets and wood supplies. And we've had to wait 16 weeks for cardboard boxes.”
Shipping delays are only one part of the problem. According to retail expert Kate Hardcastle, there has been an explosion of demand coming from the hospitality industry as it gets back on its feet following lockdown.
“Campers and caravaners have got competition from restaurants and hotels for outdoor equipment,” she said.
“The demand is so high, not just because of a shortage in supply, but also because things are being repurposed in very different ways.”
One example is the Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa in North Yorkshire, which has brought its entire spa operation outdoors to ensure it maintains social distancing.
It ordered in garden furniture, bell tents and other equipment back in March, as it feared supply chain problems amid the easing of restrictions. However, it struggled to procure the items.
“What we found is that your first choice is not always available and you need to think out of the box,” said Mr Palmer.
“Our general hospitality supply chains are not always ready – it's domestic consumer supply chains that have come to the rescue and even Amazon.”
The hotel even ended up sourcing some of the lawn furniture it needed second-hand from Carluccio's, after the troubled Italian restaurant chain shut 40 restaurants.
Other hospitality businesses are looking to enhance their outdoor offerings, leading to a surge in demand for summer products, said Ms Hardcastle.
“Everyone's trying to compete by trying to create the theatre and ambience and space – it's been a horrendous time for retail and this is just another incredible challenge for retailers to deal with.”