I’m going to be honest and blunt here: Nothing about 2020 has been “business as usual.” This post isn’t a pity party, nor is it a list of excuses. I’m going to be straight with you all, like I always am.
Shipping is a Mess
With folks preferring to order things online versus entering stores, all shippers are overloaded. Workers who are risking their own safety to deliver us everything under the sun are tired. Their trucks are at full capacity. Their coworkers are getting sick. What’s all this mean for you? Stuff is delayed. In a big, bad way.
Designers have zero control over how fast items are loaded onto trucks, how many stops trucks make, or how rough shippers are with our products. I’ve had multiple items arrive damaged. I’ve had items stuck in distribution facilities for weeks. I can follow up and be a squeaky wheel – which trust me, I am – but otherwise, there’s nothing else we can do but be patient and wait. Because it’s not business as usual.
Inventory Levels Aren’t Accurate
Sometimes when a vendor’s website says something’s in stock, it’s not. I check with my brand reps. I double-check supposedly real-time inventory systems before ordering items. And yet still, I’ve had several instances where items that were CLEARLY available and not even low stock have then subsequently been backordered…sometimes for months. Why is this happening? Reduced workers. With less staff, there are less people to update inventory systems. Things get missed – it’s inevitable when you reduce staff without reducing the workload..because it’s not business as usual.
Backordered Items Have No Clear Timeline for Delivery
If you think domestic shipping is unreliable, multiply that by a thousand for shipments coming from overseas. I’m not just talking about cheap stuff – I’m talking about fine fabrics from Italy, antiques from France, and carved tables from Spain. Everything is delayed. Manufacturers are operating at lower capacity. Customs is operating at lower capacity. And then of course America’s shippers are overworked, with everyone purchasing things online these days.
Pre-2020, backorder dates were honestly quite accurate. Now, however, something expected to arrive in 5 days could arrive in 5 months. Or not arrive at all. Which is why I try never to order anything that’s backordered. It’s also why I highly encourage American-made and custom products.
American products are at least already in the country, plus they’re amazing quality. And in most cases, I can interface directly with the factories to check on progress. Custom products are also great because custom items cannot be backordered. They’re created for you from scratch when I submit an order. Hence, we’re not waiting for a pre-made item that may or may not arrive. So if I’m more picky about what vendors I’m using for a project right now, it’s because it’s not business as usual.
Businesses Can’t Run at Capacity
Due to social distancing restrictions in a lot of factories and workrooms, manufacturers have to limit the number of employees able to work at one time. Unlike traditional office workers who can take their work home with them, furniture makers aren’t lugging home sofa frames to continue to work on their “remote days.” Not a thing.
So what does that mean for you? Much longer custom product lead times. Pre-2020, my favorite custom manufacturers could complete a sofa or headboard in 4 to 6 weeks. Now, many manufacturers’ lead times are 10 to 12 weeks or more. Custom products are built in the order in which they’re received. There’s no “skipping the line.” That wouldn’t be fair to the other customers who are waiting for their custom items. Patience is the name of the game these days. Because it’s not business as usual.
Emotions are Running High
The world is stressed. Literally everyone in the world is dealing with this pandemic at the same time. Although all of us are in the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat. Some of us are fortunate enough to still have our jobs. Some of us can afford extra childcare for our children so we can continue to work regular hours. Others have experienced job loss in their family and are struggling to pay bills. And of course, over 800,000 families and counting have lost loved ones to this nefarious virus.
It’s easy to take out our frustration and anger on others. Projection is a coping mechanism for a reason. But the reality is, we have to be in this together, and what’s needed now more than ever is compassion, understanding, and patience. As the World’s Least Patient Person, this is a hard pill for me to swallow, but I’ve had to learn that lots of what’s happening now is out of my control.
The only thing I CAN control is my communication with my clients, which will continue to be open, honest, and as timely as possible. We’ll get your project done, and it’ll be beautiful. Will it take longer than usual? Yes. Will there likely be some more issues than usual? Also yes – but that’s why I’m here. I’ll handle the vendor issues for you. All I ask is patience in return as we sort everything out.