Looking to upgrade your dishwasher or put a new refrigerator in your recently purchased home? That might take a little while, experts say.
Pandemic-related manufacturing back-ups and supply chain issues have hurt the available supply of major kitchen and laundry appliances since last year. According to Consumer Reports, supplies of appliances still have yet to rebound — and demand remains as high as ever.
“The demand has been extremely high,” said Jack Eisentrager, president of Dunnett Appliance & Mattress in Bangor. “It has caused, along with other issues, a real shortage and [increase in] waiting times for customers that want to buy appliances. We still have a tremendous amount of backorders.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lull in appliance sales for just a few weeks as Mainers observed what was happening with the state of public health, Eisentrager said. Then, as stimulus checks began to roll in last May, demand for appliances boomed.
“They’re seeing things where they’re spending more time in their home that need to be updated,” Eisentrager said. “We thought that maybe we were getting over the hump a month or two ago, but we’re right back in it again.”
Retailers are waiting five to six weeks or longer for their orders from manufacturers, which is only a slight improvement over the seven- to eight-week hold ups last spring, according to Consumer Reports. Eisentrager said that availability can be “hit or miss” depending on what shoppers are looking for, but he has observed supply shortages in particular for refrigerators, dishwashers and ranges.
The current backlogs not only come from manufacturer delays that began early in the pandemic, but also some new problems with the appliance supply chain. Parts makers worldwide are still maintaining COVID-related safety protocols, which can limit production.
“We have a chip shortage now, and little did I know how many chips go into appliances, but it affects the manufacturing of a lot of different products,” Eisentrager said. “You get an interruption on certain parts of a product and you’re dead in the water until they can get those parts. There have been a lot of interruptions in manufacturing to make products.”
Add that to a shipping-container shortage, clogged ports on the West Coast and a shipping boat accident in March that blocked a major shipping route, which have further exacerbated supply chain delays.
“Things were getting better, and then someone decided to block the Suez Canal,” said Ken Miele, CEO of Appliance Dealers Cooperative in New Jersey, which distributes appliances from manufacturers to 210 independent retailers, mainly on the East Coast.
“Demand is high, parts are global, things haven’t been coming in timely,” Eisentrager said. “It’s almost like a perfect storm.”
Another factor in Maine and beyond has been the increase in buying and building homes.
“There has been a lot of construction going on, a lot of people moving from out of state and building in the area,” Eisentrager said. “There’s four, five, six appliances in every one of those jobs.”
Seasonal sales on large appliances have suffered as well. David MacGregor, an appliance-industry analyst at Longbow Research based in Cleveland, Ohio, said that promotions weren’t applied on Memorial Day and won’t be applied to as many products for other seasonal sales.
“Why discount something that consumers are lining up and waiting five to six weeks to buy?” he said.
That doesn’t mean shoppers can’t find any suitable appliances.
“The situation is not so dire that people will have to go without a refrigerator if they really need one,” said Mark Davis, an analyst covering large appliances for Gap Intelligence, a market research company based in San Diego, California. “But they may not get it at the price they want to pay.”