Lee Valley warns customers of delays of up to 1 year, higher prices to come | CBC News

Canadian retailer Lee Valley Tools has a bleak warning for anyone looking to get their hands on high-end garden shears, brass escutcheons or crokinole boards any time soon: good luck.

The Ottawa-based home and garden chain with 20 stores across Canada told customers in an email this week that it is sending out its Christmas catalogue “uncomfortably early” this year because it is anticipating major delays in getting its goods to market. 

“We are recommending that you shop as early as possible, as we will not have the opportunity to replenish inventory before Christmas,” CEO Robin C. Lee said.

The chain is just the latest company to warn of the massive problems it is seeing in getting its products from suppliers and manufacturers to the shelves — a complicated process known as a supply chain.

The COVID-19 pandemic waylaid the usual trends of supply and demand by wiping out both in early 2020 as factories shut down to keep workers safe, and consumers weren’t in the mood to buy anything but the essentials anyway. But now that things are slowly heading back toward some sort of normalcy, suppliers can’t ramp up fast enough to keep up with booming demand of everything from cars to appliances to gaming consoles and even iPhones.

Shipping costs are a major factor, with the price to ship containers from Asia to the West Coast of North America more than quadrupling this year, one logistics firm told CBC News in an interview recently.

Lee Valley says for some items, consumers shouldn’t expect to receive them until closer to next Christmas, never mind this one.

“We are now seeing lead times for some products that exceed one year, if our order even gets accepted — and not all do,” the email said.

Prices are headed higher, too.

“You can expect to see some supply shortages through the fall season and can count on many prices increasing,” the chain said.

Ikea reports problems, too

Small firms like Lee Valley have been swept up, but even the big fish are having problems. Swedish furniture retailer Ikea.

Company CEO Jon Abrahamsson said the biggest challenge is getting goods out of China, where around a quarter of Ikea products are made. As a result, he expects consumers will face difficulties well into 2022.

Most of the chain’s wares in Europe are made there, too, but more of what gets sold in North America comes from Asia so the supply crunch is being felt most acutely in Canada and the U.S.

“And on the retail side we have learned agility like never before because everyday you have to work with what you have,” Abrahamsson said. “You have to find ways to solve customer needs with limitations that we have never seen before.”

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