Nationwide furniture shortage hits Sarasota

Every appliance in Debbie Mason’s new house is a KitchenAid – except her refrigerator.

Mason moved into her home May 7, with appliances by KitchenAid outfitting her new house in Sarasota’s Palmer Ranch neighborhood through her builder. But after she was told she was on her own to get a refrigerator, she visited an appliance store on Bee Ridge Road, where she was told that if she wanted a KitchenAid, she would have to wait. 

“The salesperson said, ‘to tell you the truth, I can get you the same brand, but I have people who ordered it in October and November and they still haven’t gotten it.’ This was January or February,” Mason said. 

And it wasn’t just the fridge that she’d have to wait for. Mason waited until late May for a living room hutch ordered in January. She waited three weeks for a technician to pave the area around her pool. And as of June 3, she was still waiting for leather chairs for the living room, which were ordered at least four months before. 

“My builder was telling me about neighbors in my new community that have been on lawn chairs in their living rooms since October,” Mason said. “I feel lucky I have couches to sit on, I just don’t have the chairs I ordered. I’m trying to be grateful for what I have.” 

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Mason’s not the only customer who’s had to wait longer than expected to complete their home’s set-up. Demand for furniture and new household appliances is high in the pandemic economic rebound, and COVID-related manufacturing shutdowns are a big reason why.

In Sarasota, furniture suppliers are experiencing unprecedented delays in getting products into the living and dining rooms of their clients. Some local thrift stores are having a hard time keeping furniture on the floor because it’s selling so quickly. And other businesses chalk up their delivery delays not only to global supply chain issues but also to a cargo shortage that’s making delivering finished product virtually impossible. 

The causes of furniture, appliance shortage

The furniture and appliance shortage is a multi-faceted issue. For one, factories were shut down because of COVID-19 and weather, leading to a deficiency of the materials they produce. For example, the freezes in Texas earlier this year caused a shutdown of factories that make chemicals found in foam, although some retailers said the foam issue has improved a bit from a peak earlier this year. 

“Furniture manufacturers were rationed as to how much foam they could get, and they had their hands tied,” Nicole Sadez Bobek of International Design Source in Naples and Sarasota said. “They were getting all these orders, but they had no material to build them with.” 

Labor is also an issue. The U.S. is currently experiencing a worker shortage – there are more jobs than people who want to fill them – and that’s leading to a slowdown in deliveries of pretty much everything. COVID outbreaks…

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