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DELIVERY & AVAILABILITY - the impact of COVID, BREXIT and supply chain disruptions
Trading conditions are far from normal. The Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and supply chain disruptions are impacting all aspects of our business. We are facing increased shipping costs, unexpected shipping delays, customs delays and other port disruptions. Factories are struggling with shortages of materials and late shipments of components. The public are mostly unaware of these disruptions although you may have experienced problems in other sectors. By working hard with trusted long term suppliers we are maintaining supplies although it is difficult to predict delivery dates with certainty.
What this means for you:
- Our show centre is closed until further notice: We have no plans to re-open our show centre in the near future.
- Express deliveries: Our parcel and pallet deliveries are less reliable at present. Please allow a little longer. Thank you for your patience.
- Next day parcel delivery service: Our next day delivery service is slower than normal and delays are more likely. All parcel networks are struggling with a national shortage of drivers. If your order is more than one carton they may be delivered separately on separate days. Often the carriers are unable to provide useful information and the online tracking is not always working at present.
- Next day pallet deliveries:After holding up well for the first year of the pandemic, the pallet networks are now struggling to keep up with demand largely due to a national shortage of drivers. Next day delivery is patchy in some areas. Saturday deliveries are not available everywhere and timed deliveries are less reliable.
- Stock products: Many of our products are in stock and delivered fast. Whenever possible we offer next day delivery or you can pick a delivery day which suits you. At busy times next day delivery is not possible and delivery may be a few days later. Since the pandemic started more products are out of stock due to exceptional demand and new stock is often late causing shortages and delays. We often see sudden surges in demand and as a result all of our stock is sold out within a few hours and often we have sold too many.
- Made to order products: Many of our products are individually made to order but delays may occur due to supply chain disruptions. Please refer to the Delivery section within each individual product page for accurate up to date delivery information. A few products have been either temporarily or permanently discontinued as factories struggle to obtain components. We often receive little or no notice of extra delays or product withdrawals.
- Specific delivery information per product: The lead time varies from one product to another. Every product page includes a Delivery section with specific up to date delivery information.
- Customer service: We are trying to maintain our normal customer service as much as possible. However, as with all other aspects of our business everything is slower than normal. We are experiencing a higher percentage of late deliveries, delays, shortages, cancellations and customer queries than ever before. We hope that this volatile and chaotic situation passes and we will resume our normal service as soon as we can.
- Phone enquiries: We introduced reduced hours with phone lines open for a limited time on weekdays only. This will continue until we can restore our normal service.
- Email enquiries: We recently employed 5 new members of staff to assist and the number of daily replies is gradually catching up with the number of incoming emails. We are working hard to reply to simple queries within a few days. Replies to more complex queries may take a few days longer. If we need to consult an outside supplier or a delivery company our reply may take a few days longer. Please do not contact us more than once with any query as this may delay our response. We hope to resume our normal service soon.
- Regular updates: We will update this page quickly if required to reflect any changes in trading conditions. Throughout the various difficulties we have experienced recently we have always been transparent, publishing honest and accurate information and explaining in advance how the crisis may affect the service our customers receive. We thank you all for your patience and understanding.
SUPPLY CHAIN UPDATE
- High shipping costs: Container shipping prices in 2021 were over 1000% higher than 2019 prices. For example, shipping a standard 40 foot container from Asia cost $1,200 in 2019 and peaked at around $16,000 in 2021. Although the prices have reduced it now costs around $8,000 in 2022.
- Import delays: All imports from Europe and around the world are routinely arriving much later than normal. Lead times are typically around double the pre-pandemic levels.
- Unprecedented demand: The global surge in demand for consumer products is causing an unprecedented backlog of unprocessed orders at factories all over the world. There is not enough factory capacity to satisfy the current demand. In addition, there are not enough cargo ships in service around the world and not enough trucks and drivers to deliver products to and from the ports and factories. Manufacturing and shipping capacity was reduced due to Covid-19 and it has not yet adjusted to the increased demand.
- Port disruptions: Even the largest ports and factories in the world are struggling to cope with volumes at present. Although Felixstowe is the largest container port in the UK it is the 50th largest in the world according to the 2020 Lloyds List and it is struggling to cope. Container ships are queuing for days at sea, waiting to unload. Many ships are now diverted to other European ports. Eventually diverted containers are delivered back to Felixstowe but often many weeks later. Due to the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK a backlog of over 50,000 undelivered containers at Felixstowe has significantly reduced the storage space available at the port.
- Shortages: We are currently experiencing unprecedented shortages on a daily basis. Vital components such as nails, screws, bolts, brackets, sealant, preservatives, paint pots, tubs, glass, insulation, wood and man made boards are in short supply, making it difficult for factories to complete orders on time. Often delays are not apparent until the last minute when long awaited components or finished products are not delivered on the expected date.
- UK manufacturers: Even UK based manufacturers are subject to exactly the same delays as importers, with vital imported components delivered late or not delivered at all. For example, all UK manufacturers of sheds and timber buildings have a problem obtaining timber at present but they also have problems with everything else they buy in such as nails, screws, glass, handles, hinges, roofing felt and preservative.
- Timber shortages: The worst affected industry of all is the timber industry, which is currently experiencing the worst crisis in living memory with a worldwide shortage. This crisis is apparent throughout the supply chain from the forests of northern Europe to your local DIY store. We have continued to supply timber buildings throughout the crisis but deliveries are erratic and unpredictable, which makes it difficult to forecast delivery dates accurately.
- Russian and Belarusian timber: Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on February 24th 2022 supplies of timber from Russia and Belarus have stopped. Before that Russia supplied over 10% of Europe's timber. Just as European timber prices had started to fall from unprecedented highs, timber prices are now even higher and continuing to increase.
COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS UPDATE
- All staff are double vaccinated: Our youngest member of staff received his second dose of coronavirus vaccine in September 2021.
- All staff are testing once a week: Although it is no longer a legal requirement, all of our staff are currently testing once a week with a lateral flow test.
- All staff comply with our safe working procedures: Before the first shut-down in March 2020 we implemented stringent cleaning routines, social distancing measures and other safety precautions for the protection of our staff. We work efficiently in 4 large warehouses with around 5000 square feet of floor space per employee which makes social distancing easy. We are committed to the safety of our staff.
- Cleaning and hygiene: We have installed anti-bacterial gel dispensers at convenient locations. Our procedures include no tool sharing in our warehouses, extra printers in our offices, increased handwashing with antibacterial soap and minimal contact with others including a minimum distance of 2m between people. Disposable gloves, re-usable gloves, cloths, paper towels, cleaners and sprays are supplied to all staff as required.
- Work bubbles: Although it is no longer a legal requirement, we continue to work safely in small bubbles to protect our staff using strict physical separation. Each bubble has a separate work area, a separate rest area, separate kitchen facilities and separate toilets. Communication between work bubbles is by email and mobile phone. In addition to reducing the risk to our staff this policy may also help to ensure continuity of service if one bubble is affected by increasingly infectious new strains.
- No visitors: We have reduced the number of visitors to the minimum. Our show centre is closed except by appointment so very few members of the public visit and they are always outside. The only other visitors are delivery drivers bringing goods in or out and maintenance technicians carrying out essential work such as alarm engineers, equipment inspectors, electricians, plumbers and IT support engineers.
- No use of public transport: All of our warehouse staff and office staff travel to work alone in their own cars and do not use public transport.
- Safe home deliveries. Delivery drivers are keen to keep their distance, which is in everybody's interest. The normal requirement to sign for goods is not normally required at present. Instead, the driver will sign on your behalf. In a few cases a signature may be required, for example on a paper delivery note, but this should be completed remotely without breaching social distancing requirements.
- Customs delays: Before Brexit goods travelled from Europe to the UK seamlessly with virtually no documentation required. Now delays are widespread due to complex procedures introduced in the UK and Europe. Complex new software is required to submit documents to HM Revenue and Customs and glitches are not unusual. In addition, these procedures are new and many factories in Europe fail to provide the correct information, adding to delays.
- Shortage of international drivers: In December 2020 around 6,000 European lorry drivers were stranded in Kent and spent Christmas Day in the cab of their truck. The M20 was closed and became a temporary lorry park while Manston Airport became an overflow lorry park. As part of Operation Stack 1100 British troops were drafted in to assist with traffic control and food distribution while standing by in case the security situation deteriorated. This was headline news across Europe over the Christmas period. As a result many European drivers still refuse to drive to the UK. The shortage of drivers often causes last minute delays with deliveries from our European suppliers.
- Shortage of drivers in the UK: Around 20,000 European drivers have left the UK since BREXIT. According to The Financial Times "an exodus of EU lorry drivers from the UK since Brexit has left the British haulage and logistics industry facing an acute staff shortage and a looming crisis for industrial and retail deliveries". According to Logistics UK, the trade body that was formerly the Freight Transport Association "we have never seen members as concerned as they are now”. The shortage of drivers has badly affected all major carrier networks and as a result we have seen a significant increase in the number of late deliveries to our customers this year.
- Transport companies unwilling to deliver to the UK: Many European transport companies have stopped delivering to the UK this year in order to avoid delays and due to concerns about complicated documentation and delayed customs clearance. To make matters worse, shipping prices from Europe to the UK have risen by around 30% due to the lack of "back loads" from the UK to Europe. Normally the overall cost of our delivery is much cheaper if the transport company can find a back load from the UK to their home country. Now many trucks are heading home from the UK empty. This problem is expected to ease in time although it is a major concern now and we have seen no improvement so far.
- Factories unwilling to sell to the UK market: Several large European manufacturers have refused our orders because they are no longer willing to export to the UK. They are put off by the new procedures, preferring instead to concentrate on their core European market. We all hope this will improve in time but we expect a long wait with no progress at all yet.