2021 Inventory Scavenger Hunt Continues
Apr 26, 2021
As more of the world started opening up, and goods were flowing, I guess we all thought our supply issues were behind us. But as with anything else, it takes a while for the system to catch up and deal with new surging demands. And so, the stock scavenger hunt continues in 2021.
- Items that were proclaimed to be "always in stock" could no longer wear that badge of honour.
- Expected shipping dates could no longer be trusted. And even once that shipment arrived, it only covered back orders and the stock issues remained.
- Some suppliers quit even entering back orders, causing us to have to continue to check stock levels in to process orders in progress.
- What looked like plenty of stock when we suggested an item to a customer could be wiped out just by refreshing the screen.
It all started back in 2020 when China extended the normal New Year's shutdown. Closing manufacturing for the Chinese New Year wasn't anything out of the ordinary, we were accustom to planning around the predicted shut down, but as it was extended and extended, timelines started to be extended. Then, as the rest of the world became impacted, the snowball got bigger and bigger. And once manufacturing got going again, everyone was ready to ship at once and there was a container shortage in Asia.
At the same time, as our normal forms of entertainment were no longer available, sales of outdoor, hobby and exercise equipment sky-rocketed. Most of these products required components or the products themselves to come from overseas. So, while the system was already struggling to get back on track, further demands were being placed on the system.
And if that wasn't enough to contend with, then the Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest trade routes, for almost a week!
Even for products made in Canada, there can be components that come from overseas. For example, one of our favourite Canadian suppliers who makes sauces and spices has spent many hours securing lids for their bottles. Although they have the capability to make the sauces and spices and have all of the other packaging, without lids they are dead in their tracks. Luckily, they managed to secure a supply and the sauce will be flowing this summer!
One of our suppliers recently shared some shipping statistics with us:
- 50% of Vessel Departures are Delayed
- 16 Day Delay on Average Before a Vessel Departs
- 40% Longer in-Transit Times
What does this mean for you?
Having a Promotional Consultant is more important than ever. We do all of the stock hunting for your project. Sometimes we can get the same item through another supplier; sometimes we can find a comparable item for you. We connect with suppliers to identify when stock might be available and monitor stock levels to get your order placed as soon as stock becomes available.
It also means that delays in confirming your order might mean further shipping delays or the need to select a different item to meet your required delivery date. When you first reach out to us about an order, we look into the products and stock levels. If we're concerned about stock levels, we let you know. (And we're pretty good at keeping track but we get surprised sometimes when we go back and all of a sudden there are no medium shirts in that style or colour.) The more time that elapses between sending you options and you placing your order, the more chance for disappointment.
So, to help us help you throughout this period, here are some tips:
- Give a little more time for your order. Generally, we can get most items in your hands in 3-4 weeks but if we have some more lead time to track down inventory and/or deal with any potential stock delays, even an extra week can make a difference. We can still get you items with the regular turnaround time, it just may limit the selection you have available.
- Be ready to approve the order once we've secured stock. Depending on the items, a delay of a few days (and unfortunately sometimes, even hours but we will likely let you know if this might be the case) can mean the stock is no longer available.
- Be flexible with product selection. Again, this can vary but we do have some items that are back ordered with suppliers until much later in the year. Yes, it used to be if an item was on back order, you might expect to wait another week or two but now, depending on the item, it could be month or two or even more.
- Talk to us about your timelines at the beginning. If you have a specific in hands date you need, let us know right away and we'll focus on items that are most likely in stock immediately. Knowing your timeline can also ensure we more actively follow up to help manage your timeline. It's always a balance for us between not wanting to seem like we're harassing you and wanting to ensure we contact you an appropriate amount to keep your order rolling along.
So, for the most part, it's still business as usual for us. For most orders, our customers may not even know inventory issues exist, for others, I'm sure it feels like a game of whack-a-mole. The good news is, we're become whack-a-mole experts and are definitely working to adjust to everything 2021 is throwing at us.