Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across all industries have felt the financial burden of trying to operate in an unprecedented time.
Not only have owners and employees been forced to adhere to heightened security measures and face consumer reluctance, but one of the most basic necessities of operation has been greatly affected – the supply chain.
Go to any grocery store and there will definitely be an item that you pull off the shelves each week before March 2020 that won’t be as readily available – and might not be week after week.
The same can be said for home improvement stores like Belletetes, with nine locations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, including Peterborough and Jaffrey.
Mike Shea, president and CEO of Belletetes, said just about every aspect of the building materials industry has been affected. “I can’t really think of anything that isn’t in short supply or with longer lead times,” Shea said.
In addition to the reduced availability of supply and problems obtaining products, Shea said the price increases have continued. Demand too.
“It’s getting more and more expensive to get them,” he said.
He said a number of factors have contributed to the supply chain disruptions. Last year’s weather conditions in the South, between hurricanes and tropical storms in Louisiana and deep frost in Texas, made it harder for raw materials to be available and produced, causing long delays.
“A lot of industries have been put in a position to try to catch up,” Shea said.
Another reason is what Shea called a national trucking problem because there just aren’t enough trucks and drivers to keep up with demand.
This has led to forced limitations on some products, Shea said.
“It’s relaxed a bit, but we’re still on lots with drywall. We can’t get the shingles we want in a timely manner, ”he said. “Because we are limited in what we can buy, we are limited in what we can sell. “
Items such as hardware, steel fasteners, and paint are under pressure, resulting in low fill rates. Fiberglass insulation is hard to come by, custom-order windows have six to 24 week lead times, and cabinet makers are away 12 weeks or more.
“They don’t have enough product and they can’t produce it fast enough. And there aren’t enough employees, ”Shea said.
And that has raised concerns, which means Belletetes is increasing orders when possible to maintain inventory.
“A lot of times we don’t know until the truck gets here what’s missing, what we’re not going to get,” Shea said. “If we order 30 items, we might get 20.”
John Kaufhold, owner of Peterborough Marble & Granite Works, said both sides of his business, landscaping products like pavers, granite posts and steps, and memorials, have seen increased demand since last spring. . And he’s not the only one in the industry with increased demand. Subsequently, this forced Kaufhold to adjust its deadlines simply because of a longer delay in obtaining the documents.
“This has resulted in an increase in orders from our suppliers,” he said.
When Vermont shut down operating manufacturing plants at the start of the pandemic, Kaufhold said its distributors fell behind and have been catching up ever since.
“Orders that lasted two to three months are now six to 10 months,” he said. “If I have to get something out of Vermont, whether it’s an imported stone or a domestic stone, it’s at least six months. In July, we had to start telling customers that we cannot guarantee a special order for this year.
He has a good amount of inventory on hand so that orders that can be filled using these materials can be processed more quickly.
For the pavers and wall stones that come from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, “they’re going to tell me three to four months before I can get them,” Kaufhold said.
“So we have to order much further in advance,” Kaufhold said. “It’s not difficult; it’s just frustrating because you can’t keep customers happy right away. It hasn’t really hurt sales; it just pushes things back. Most of the work is now. scheduled for next spring, in part because of delays and impending ground freezing in the coming months.
Another material that has become a bit harder to find is what Kaufhold called the sandblasting stencil, which is a rubber material that comes in large rolls used in the lettering process.
“We’re not short of it, but sometimes there have been orders backing for a few weeks,” he said. Other companies weren’t so lucky leading to calls to Peterborough Marble & Granite looking for some. “We’ve always tried to order in advance and keep inventory months ahead. “
Doni Ash, owner of Shattuck Golf Course, Lab ‘n’ Lager at Keene and Dublin Tap, said issues with the supply chain were evident in all aspects of the business.
Ash said he ordered golf clubs, both on display and for sale, and golf balls in January. The golf balls finally arrived in mid-August, but were expected to be there in April. He ended up canceling the club’s order because by the time they arrived the season would be over. The t-shirts and hats ordered in July took months to arrive.
“Everything about golf took months,” he said.
He needed a part for one of his mowers and eventually found it online – used – in England, and the shipping costs were higher than the actual part.
Regarding the food for the Taproom, Ash said he’s never quite sure what will happen after placing an order.
“Almost every week there is a substitute for a different product,” Ash said. It is if something appears.
For over a year, he was given a different substitute for chicken wings, and the price per wing almost doubled. Since he has kept his prices unchanged, Ash estimates that he is losing about $ 3 per order.
“It’s definitely not as practical as it used to be,” he said.
When items don’t arrive, Ash said they have to scramble to find certain items, resulting in trips to grocery stores.
“Every day you come in and it’s something new,” he said. “It’s difficult to put together a menu. “
Michelle Freeman, co-owner of Dublin General Store, said every week what doesn’t happen is hit and miss.
For a while, these were certain drinks because companies couldn’t bottle glass or plastic. Bacon has been an ongoing problem for a reason she cannot explain.
“Sometimes I don’t know if he won’t come in or if the salesperson will let me know,” Freeman said. “It’s a cat and mouse game.”
She said if something isn’t available for a week it’s usually okay, but longer wait times are more difficult because she won’t replace products they’ve been using for years.
“I don’t want less quality,” Freeman said.
She expects the disruption to be due to distributors not keeping as many products on hand, as well as some issues on the production side.
“I think all industries are feeling it,” she said. “But we don’t worry. We’re just taking it one day at a time.
Tony Panagiotes, owner of Peterborough Pizza Barn, said deliveries were a problem with distributors changing their ways. And product availability is not what it used to be.
“We order the same chicken fillets that we’ve ordered for 20 years, and we can’t get them,” Panagiotes said.
Tim Steele, founder and CEO of Microspec in Peterborough, said what previously took one to two weeks to get raw materials sometimes took up to six to eight weeks. He said they have stored key raw materials in the event of supply issues.
“But if it’s a new raw material that we have to get, then that’s a problem,” Steele said.
Bill Peterson, vice president of human resources at Monadnock Paper Mills Inc., said the company closely monitors all of its critical chemicals and raw materials and is in constant contact with its suppliers.
“We’re spending a lot more time on it than a year, a year and a half ago,” said Peterson.
He said they have been able to respond to any issues related to the shipments accordingly and have increased their stock of certain materials as needed.
“What we produce, getting it out in a timely manner is essential,” Peterson said.