KBB retailers have been battling against supply shortages for the past 18 months. Many believe that delays will continue until the end of the year, while some think there will be no relief until late in 2023.
We polled our nationwide think tank of retailers – the kbbreview100 – and more than a third of retailers (38%) believe that the supply issues will continue for the next 18 months, while 30% think that problems will ease by the end of the year. However, there are a few who see no relief in sight any time soon.
Reports of appliance lead times are around an average of 16 to 20 weeks, but with some retailers seeing times being as long as nearly nine months. Dishwashers and combi microwaves are the two appliances categories that have the longest lead times out of appliances.
Ciaran Leyne, director at Trilogy Designs in London, has been purchasing from online retailers instead of direct from the supplier. Leyne explains: “Appliances are completely outside of our control. We often find ourselves purchasing appliances from online retailers who hold stock in order to complete a project but, aside from eroding our profit margin, it is becoming more and more difficult to find the appliances needed.
“Stock levels with some manufacturers seem to have improved, but others seem to only be getting worse. It is very frustrating to hear of one large manufacturer launching a plan to sell direct to the consumer when their independent retailers are suffering from their inability to supply their existing product lines. The timing of this announcement tells me that they have no understanding of the challenges facing their retailers.”
Frazer Goodwillie, director at Billingham Kitchens in Stockton on Tees, said: “Appliances is the only area causing us problems, we have had some appliances on order for over six months now and there is still no production date. For day-to-day products we are managing by ordering ahead and encouraging people to go for options more available but its tiring being asked weekly by customers if there is any news.”
However, Goodwillie believes that the only way for manufacturers to catch up with demand is for demand to fall. He said: “Given that the problems seem to be worse now than ever, it will take a real fall-off in demand for manufacturers to start to catch up, hopefully this year.”
Sinks and taps have started to become a struggle as well, with lead times around 16 to 18 weeks. However, kitchen furniture has remained at around six to 10 weeks, with many retailers saying that despite high demand the lead times are as normal.
Sanctuary Kitchens and Bathrooms in Shepperton design director Emily Hyde does not know how long these delays will last. In response to asking about time frames, she said: “Who knows, they don’t seem to have improved on this for nearly two years, now, the communication is a little better, but I do feel they should be communicating this with the end users more, as well as the retailers. We are the ones having to constantly juggle and manage clients’ expectations. Manufacturers should be more responsible for this aspect of the issue so it doesn’t fall to the retailer to be the bearer of bad news.”
The high demand is one of the contributing factors behind the supply issue, and Shehryar Khan managing director at Sheraton Interiors in London, thinks that the situation will continue for the next few years as demand is still so high. Khan said: “I can see this situation extending into the next couple of years, demand is still high for home improvement and I do not see any major shift from any supplier to address the stock issue. The suppliers are saying the lead times will be shorter in the coming months but I just don’t believe them.”
Supply issues have not been just for the kitchen retailers as bathroom products have been scarce as well. Derek Miller, director at Scope Bathrooms in Glasgow, said: “Lead times are all over the place. Last year, the biggest problem was shower trays, then glass. This year, there have been issues with ceramics and some brassware.”
Other bathroom retailers are experiencing delays with brassware, back to wall toilets and certain shower manufactures having certain showers out of stock with no delivery dates.
Matthew Parnum, director of ICE Interiors in Hampshire added: “We really have no idea how long any issues will remain but we cannot really see anything improving this year. The information being received seems to blame the appliance stock issues linked to extraordinary demand, a global shortage in microchips and semiconductors, and of course the pandemic.”