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Issues & Solutions

Price Increases, Shortages, and Delays 4-Years Later What Does our Crystal Ball Say?

By March 28th, 2024No Comments

Can you believe it? Almost 4 years ago, the first wave of the Pandemic plowed through our life, stopping air travel, sequestering millions at home, and causing issues, some of which still have not been resolved. While the infectious disease portion of this mess appears well under control, there are some aspects that have yet to fully recover.

In the pool industry, the Pandemic helped launch a spiral of product shortages, price increases, longer lead times, key employee retirements, and labor issues that still plague us today. Then came inflation, yikes…just what we didn’t need. This caused a perfect storm of disruption that dominated the daily life of an equipment supply and support company.

But where are we now, and what does the crystal ball say?

Equipment Price Increases: We had FULLY expected prices to normalize by now. That’s what ALL the experts said, but we are still receiving price increases from factories. Their costs of raw goods are still going up, their labor rates have gone up, and their cost of money has gone up due to interest rates. The crystal ball shows that we have not seen any indications of price stabilization yet and aren’t confident it will happen at all this year. If and when it does, you’ll be the first to know.

Raw Material Shortages: Necessary items like chlorine, bronze, titanium, computer chips, ruthenium dioxide and others are still in high demand, causing shortages. We’re still in big trouble on some items. The crystal ball shows continued gradual improvements on bronze and other metals, but computer chips are still lagging far behind. 

Equipment Availability: We have some fairly good news here in that some factories have fully recovered, and have worked through backlogs to the point that it is almost business as usual. The crystal ball shows that great companies like Stenner, BECS, and ChlorKing minimized the impact of the Pandemic and are back as close to normal as they’re going to get. Others are still working to decrease their HUGE backlogs that started when incredible demand met with crippled supply. We expect to see continued gradual improvement through 2024.

Lead Times: Lead times are still substantially higher than pre-pandemic times. Not only is manufacturing not fully recovered, but factories and distributors have decreased their inventories due to the high cost of money. The crystal ball shows that these are gradually getting better, with some companies nearly 100% back to normal, and others still running 2-3 times longer than pre-pandemic.

What about Chlorine: The chlorine shortages are still here and are real, leading to prices that are up 30-50% higher (or more) than pre-pandemic levels. Since chlorine is also used to make your iPads, smart phones, and other plastic consumer products, the recovery has been slower than normal. Some customers with difficult deliveries have been cut off by manufacturers, while some wholesale accounts have been put on allocations. The crystal ball says that the price increases are going to be smaller and farther apart in the coming months or years but, we’re not confident that they’ll ever get back to pre-pandemic levels. 

Shipping: Shipping costs are slowly coming down, but may never reach the pre-pandemic level, however, customer service on most shipping lines has experienced MAJOR slippage. In some cases it is just horrible. The crystal ball says that the extreme shortage of drivers will continue to get resolved, and there are some signs that shipping line customer service is slowly getting better, but every time we say this there is some major foopah that makes you scratch your head. 

In short, we’re hoping for the best and bracing for the worst. What can we do together to minimize the effects of this perfect storm? Here are a few ideas that have been working well. 

  • Think Ahead: It is very tough to supply almost anything on a rush these days, and then even harder to expedite the freight. It is best to watch inventories carefully, and order well in advance of when you need it, if possible.
  • Loyal is Better: We have seen some owners switch suppliers for a few dollars, and then were not able to get products on a timely basis, and were not able to be taken back to their original supplier, and many are not taking any “new customers”.
  • Maintain What You Have: This is not a great time to have things break unexpectedly. Check the operation of your heaters, filters, pumps, etc. carefully, and schedule preventative maintenance as needed to get your full life span out of your equipment. 
  • Think Long Term: If a piece of equipment breaks, many are conducting a quick review to see if it makes sense to upgrade. Many new technologies pay their own way out of savings, and come with convenient pay as you go programs. 

We’re all in this together, and please let us know how we can assist you. Our team stands ready to help in any way possible.

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