A supply chin crisis has gripped the U.S. and has consumers shaking their heads as they struggle to find everyday items they need in their day-to-day lives.
Bicycles, electric bikes, motorcycles, R.V.s, lumber, steel, chlorine for swimming pools, and even ketchup packets are hard to come by these days and are among some of the almost unobtainable items currently worrying consumers.
Since the pandemic started, biking has become a popular sport, but suppliers have difficulty keeping up with the demand since steel and other much-needed parts are hard to come by.
“We can’t get bikes,” says bike shop owner David Poe. “The pandemic changed the entire supply chain.”
“They allocate bicycles as they see fit,” he told The Almanac. “It’s made things very difficult.”
Poe and his wife Lori own Tandem Connection located in Cecil Township. It’s a quiet place in Pennsylvania where people crave outdoor activities, especially during the summer season. The Poe’s and other shop owners in the area are having a tough time finding both bikes and parts because the supply chain has essentially failed.
“The supply chain is horrible,” says Al Montuoro, who operates Pedego. “Electric bikes are popular. We can’t get any until mid-June or the first part of July. It’s painful sitting here with the huge investment we have made and not being able to sell at the rate people are willing to buy.”
“We have a backlog of 30 bikes,” he says. “We’re getting emails about ordering bikes and what might be available.”
BikeBling, a California bicycle retailer, is also having issues finding bikes.
“I tried to order a mountain bike so that I could start getting in shape but found it wasn’t that simple,” says Shepard Ambellas. “I had to call the dealer myself to see what they actually had in stock, which didn’t seem like much.”
Ambellas says he placed an order with the company to find weeks later that the bike never shipped. When Ambellas later called the company and spoke to customer service, the agent mentioned that they could not even locate the one he ordered. The company attempted to sell Ambellas a different bike, but Ambellas declined and wanted a full refund.
Brenden Cook, a sales associate for Trek, told The Almanac that it’s the “luck of the draw” and maintains that Trek’s McMurray store has had long lines “out the door.”
“People want bikes,” says Cook. “The pre-ordering is incredible. Getting to the service side is crazy. Demand is so high for service, it’s impossible to keep up because of the difficulty to get parts.”
“It is starting to get a little bit better. But lead times for bikes are three to four months and in some cases eight to nine months.”
The problem is that U.S. retailers import bicycles into the U.S., primarily from China, at the rate of about 17 million bikes per year. That is until the pandemic hit.
According to a report from the Washington Post, bike sales are up 120% this year, rubbing salt into the wounds of those yearning to ride. A lot of this stems from the shutdown of fitness centers and gyms, which typically allowed people to exercise at any time. But with all the regulations coming out of Washington D.C. and states throughout the U.S., things have only got worse.
The bottom line is that bike shops are under heavy pressure to keep up with the growing demand, but steel is also an issue and hard to find. Steel prices have tripled in 2021, sending manufacturers into a frenzy.
“The pandemic brought the American steel industry to its knees last spring, forcing manufacturers to shut down production as they struggled to survive the imploding economy,” reports CNN Business. “But as the recovery got underway, mills were slow to resume production, and that created a massive steel shortage.”
“After bottoming out around $460 last year, U.S. benchmark hot-rolled coil steel prices are now sitting at around $1,500 a ton, a record high that is nearly triple the 20-year average,” the publication reports.
And if that is not enough, lumber markets see similar spikes in prices because of the pandemic. Everybody and their brother wants wood right now to build homes, but it’s hard to find and doesn’t come cheap. Timber doesn’t grow on trees anymore; pardon the pun.
According to Emily Stewart, writing for the publication Vox, “a lumber frenzy has taken over homebuilding, Home Depot, and the internet.”
“Lumber mania is sweeping North America,” she writes. “For years, the price of 1,000 board feet of lumber has generally traded in the $200 to $400 range. It’s now well above $1,000.”
“A new house that would have cost $10,000 in wood to get off the ground a couple of years ago now costs $40,000 worth of wood — assuming, that is, you can even get your hands on the lumber,” writes Stewart.
Bikes and lumber are not the only things that are hard to get. We also see shortages of motorcycles, R.V.s, ketchup packets, and chicken, all of which consumers expect to have. The pandemic has been a significant disruptor of supply chains and has sent some companies and consumers into a frenzy. To top it off, if companies fall behind, it can be costly.
Right now, outdoor brands, such as ones that make tents, are also struggling to get products to consumers. Thie shortage has put a damper on outdoor enthusiasts and campers who want to soak in a bit of sun and nature as the pandemic winds down, which is another good reason people should prepare ahead of time and not wait for disasters to strike.