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May 03, 2021
As much as we love giving helpful advice or run-downs on our various projects and products in our blog posts, today we’re talking about something a little different. We’re all pretty well-versed in the shortages and empty shelves and price hikes by now, having been hip-deep in a global pandemic for over a year. The home reno industry is no exception to this, and we know first-hand from our colleagues in the industry as well as from our readers and customers that the ever-changing landscape has been pretty confusing. I wanted to shed some light on what’s been happening, how it’s affected Decorner, and what we’re working on moving forward. We launched in Fall 2020 - a great time to open a small business, huh - so all we know is pandemic life, which is full of pivots and split-second adjustments. The ever-changing regulations in Ontario, Canada, where we’re based, are just one more hurdle to navigate - but we’re always up for a challenge and looking for new ways to help our customers. So let’s jump in!
COVID definitely has a knack for exposing existing issues and exacerbating them, and that definitely applies to the home reno industry. Without any complicated mumbo-jumbo, it boils down to this: the supply chain is a hot mess. The demand exceeds the supply, and the suppliers can’t be bothered to meet the demand because it’s pretty darn profitable to have a high demand. This spirals even further when you add shipping into the mix - we’ve been navigating shipping issues for the better part of a year at this point, as have most businesses, big and small. Lucky for us, our customers are wonderful and understand that the functionality of the chain of shipping is completely out of our control, and we’ve been doing our very best to stay on top of delays and other events. This has been especially difficult at the times that Toronto adopts new COVID regulations, as this usually involves a delay at the distribution center, but keeping up with the news and following up on the shipments especially around the time new regulations begin has saved us a lot of grief. We're proud to have worked through the worst of shipping instability and figured out how to best serve our wonderful customers, but the learning process was decidedly uphill. The changing regulations can also make it difficult for us to create website materials, promotional content and educational videos to accompany our products - that might seem trivial, but when you’re a baby business, not being able to create any of your own footage can really hurt!
The real challenge for us has been on the supply end - dealing with high demand for low supply, with fluctuating material costs, and with large-scale inventory shipping delays. It’s so important to us to offer the best quality materials at the best possible prices with excellent service to boot, so it causes us a lot of grief when there are things out of our control that affect our customers. Having to adjust our prices to correspond with increased manufacturer costs is something we give a heck of a lot to avoid, but there’s just no way around it. We have hopes that these prices will adjust back down once the pandemic is on its way out and supplies are more readily available, but sometimes it’s hard to see the end of the tunnel.
Something we can control is the way we interact with our customers and the experience we offer, so we’re using this time refine our website and our policies, and to really commit to developing our unique brand of e-commerce. We want to optimize the way you interact with us, and offer even more services, including instructional videos for all of our products (including the highly requested tips for installing our SPC) and consulting appointments. We want Decorner to be a really comprehensive experience, and we want to be hands-on and available to our customers.
And ours is not an isolated experience - in fact, it’s so widespread that our favorite DIY guru and Decorner pal Jeff Thorman of Homerenovision DIY released several videos on his channel recently about it. He broke down the flaws of the supply chain in a way that really makes sense.
Essentially, the already high demand skyrocketed even further when the pandemic hit and folks lost the option to spend money on travel or vacations, and instead chose to invest in their homes and start renovations. However, production slowed way down with people being out of work due to COVID; with higher-earners keeping their jobs and making use of lower interest rates AND reduced supply, prices shot up exponentially. That’s independent of shipping rates going up by the minute, even mid-transit, especially to and from ports in China (where so many materials and products come from). And to make recent matters worse, there was the incident of a ship plugging up the Suez canal for the better part of a week and holding up a huge amount of cargo of all kinds. Don’t even get us started on the suspension of service guarantees by shipping giants like UPS - headache after headache after headache!
So, in short - demand exceeds supply, supply decreases, demand increases, and the shipping chain becomes even more unstable. Bad enough, right? Enter - Texas. This is what is commonly referred to as a force majeure - an unforeseeable circumstance or extraordinary event that is written into most contracts or agreements and dissolves obligations. For some context coming from a professional opera singer, there were a lot of clauses like this being enacted around the start of the pandemic as arts houses realized they wouldn’t be able to put on productions and looked for loopholes to dissolve commitments to artists. The 18 billion dollars worth of damage in Texas due to the devastating cold weather included damage to production systems that manufacture important materials in the home reno industry, especially components for oriented straight board.
OSB is used with stick lumber, and when there’s a shortage of OSB, a lot of retailers won’t sell the stick lumber either, since it’s not of much use without it. So you can’t get any kind of lumber - all this during a housing boom. Decidedly less than ideal.
A term I wasn’t familiar with that sheds a lot of light on the supply chain issues, especially the shipping component, is “just-in-time shipping” - it refers to recent trend for companies not to hold warehouses and instead import product as-needed. This started happening in order to cut costs for the retailers, but it’s causing huge problems now. As the chain of supply is disrupted by about, let’s say 10-15%, the hike in prices is exponentially higher - and here we are, with prices way, way up because retailers can’t keep the products on the shelves and they know people will pay.
And that’s where we are, and why. Big thanks to Jeff for phrasing it in a way that puts it in context for the home reno industry in a way that isn’t hard to understand. He took it one further and made this video about renovations and DIYs that use readily available supplies and won’t break the bank this season. We’re big fans of this list, especially since he gives special mention to painting and staining - if you’re in the mood to DIY but feeling discouraged about what’s available and for how much, we definitely recommend heading over to our website to take a look at our recycled paint line, Refuge, and our Osmo stains. (The Refuge paint is also a domestic product and has an almost immediate turnaround time, which we love!) Updating your deck with a fresh new finish is a perfect way to welcome the warmth of summer and get ready for the joy of a brand new season. And if you haven’t jumped on the DIY bandwagon yet during the pandemic, your space is probably way overdue for a refresher, too - after a year of worries staying at home, it’s DEFINITELY time to start over with a new coat of paint! We’ve got a lot of tips and tricks to make staining and painting an absolute breeze for you. Check out our Mood Board archives for blogs that will help you achieve a professional result and totally transform your space!
We also want to hear from you - how has this pandemic affected the way you view your home? Have you had to postpone renovations or DIY projects? How can Decorner help you more, and support your projects? What products could we add to our shop that would help you achieve your DIYs in one stop? Send us an email, comment below or call in - we’re constantly inspired by our customers and love getting feedback from you about your projects and your plans.
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