Everyone will have a different view on the timing of the new English lockdown and the merits of it. My personal view and my professional view are entirely different.
From a business perspective the timing of it could not have been much worse. It would be true to say we benefitted massively from the first lockdown earlier in the year, with the surge in online shopping that it delivered. However since then we have struggled behind the scenes to maintain the norm.
The biggest challenge we have had all year is the ability to get stock in fast enough, after the first lockdown stock levels across our supply chain were decimated. Our suppliers since have not really been able to recover their position with different challenges everywhere
Those that have manufacturing facilities in the far east are reporting challenges with capacity as we are seeing everywhere else, but also for the first time that I can remember challenges wit a shortage of raw materials. Amazingly the challenges are not so much around the timber and wood required to make the furniture, but more the other parts. Metal components are in seemingly limited supply, as is the cardboard essential for packaging the finished product.
Our european suppliers are seeing challenges around capacity as they try and recover their stock positions. Many have had to take uncomfortable decisions to delist products from the range to try and focus on core items.
Without writing a lesson on lean manufacturing as there are many writers on the subject far better qualified to discuss and explain than I am, ultimately a smaller range means they can produce longer more efficient production runs – less time spent on changing between items and setting up means more units produced in the week.
Just as we were starting to see the benefits of this (we observed a couple of weeks ago in the office how lead times for out of stock items seem to be coming down steadily), Boris made the announcement he did and the demand for online retail is climbing again.
Busy is good
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be busy, but as a customer centric business it also presents its challenges at the same time, and often for much longer afterwards than outsiders might first realise and expect.
If you are someone that has been caught out by the unforeseen range changes and find you are no longer able to get the item you are after to finish your room off, please don’t despair. We often have additional options that will look good and are happy to advise.
We have spent a long while working with the manufacturers and distributors that we do. Consequently we like to think we know their ranges almost better than they do, and at times are better able to help than they are.
Being customer friendly remains a key part of our ethos, even in these challenging times. Having invested in expanding our customer support earlier in the year, we won’t be afraid to do it again if we have to.