The pandemic that has plagued the world for almost a year has affected lives in many ways, including the ability to buy furniture and appliances.
For months now, stores around the country have been having a hard time acquiring basics, such as ranges, refrigerators, mattresses and even recliners.
“It’s across the board,” said Jason Speidel, a manager at Mid-City SuperStore in Norfolk. “But it’s jumped around. Ranges are hard to get now ... but it was freezers.”
The reasons are many and varied, Speidel said.
In some cases, manufacturing companies were shut down because of the virus; in other cases, parts made in other countries were being shipped in. At times, the ships bringing the parts made it to a U.S. port only to sit there because workers were not available to unload them.
Mattresses were even hard to get because the materials used to make them were needed for masks and other protective gear used by health care providers, Speidel said.
But, despite the issues with inventory, Speidel said businesses that were proactive and had inventory in stock had a good year.
Because people weren’t traveling or eating out as much, they had more money to spend, and they have been spending it in town instead of somewhere else, Speidel said.
The stimulus money and unemployment checks some people received also helped, he said.
More people are installing outdoor theaters and buying “big” TVs, he said.
Still, Speidel said he’s never seen anything extend this long.
“Hopefully things will improve,” he said.
Kyle Deets calls the past year a “whirlwind.”
“It’s been one of the most challenging years we’ve had,” said Deets, the vice president of Deets Furniture in Norfolk.
The recliners and other pieces of furniture that normally arrived in six to seven weeks are now taking six to seven months, he said.
Like Speidel, Deets said the delay is due in part to shutdowns at manufacturing plants early in the pandemic. Even though many of the plants are open again, some are still trying to catch up on orders that came in while they were closed. Other plants are not fully staffed yet, Deets said.
“They got behind ... and didn’t have the people to build furniture,” he said.
Consequently, Deets said he is planning now for Labor Day and Black Friday sales.
The pandemic has forced other changes, Deets said. Their store was closed to the public for around 30 days last spring, although customers were allowed in by appointment, and still delivered furniture and fulfilled orders placed online.
The store has been open since late last spring. Customers seem more relaxed and are comfortable wearing masks and taking necessary precautions, Deets said.
Still, the situation means the staff is cleaning surfaces frequently.
“We take cleanliness and sanitation very seriously,” Deets said. “Touch points are wiped down several times a day.”
Deets, like Speidel, said the pandemic hasn’t been all bad for business in that people seem to have money to spend, possibly because they aren’t traveling, and many have the government stimulus money.
Although it’s been a challenging year, Deets said they are “excited to be open and able to serve our customers.”