When getting a desk chair or weights is mission impossible: after a year of pandemic we are still out of stock in stores
The change in habits that the pandemic has not led to, be it by teleworking, distance study or the purpose of staying in shape at home has turned the market upside down, as we knew it. While, The closed offices, the empty gyms and the universities on half gas. A priori it makes sense to think that when they confined us almost more than a year ago, the companies could not foresee the tsunami of sales that they had to face then.
First, families began to live at home (parents and children included), more electronic devices were needed, refurbish the workspace And why not, it was time to set up a home office. We knew that the remote work was going to take a long time. An office and … a gym Buying exercise bikes and dumbbells skyrocketed in April and May 2020 by almost 90%, according to a study by beseif.
One year after all that Decathlon weight shelves are still empty. What to say about the office furniture department at Ikea: Finding a Markus (the usual best-selling ergonomic chair) is like winning a lottery. On Amazon, most similar chairs appear next to a cute Not Available sign. Even Twitter has been filled with users complaining about how it is possible that they have been looking for these products for months and not find them on the usual big platforms.
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David Rioja, a resident of La Rioja, has been behind an ergonomic chair for three months. Specifically, la JÄRVFJÄLLET the Ikea. Although of course, the Markus was also among his favorites. “I had to take the armrest on one side, and the structure on the other. And on top of that they are of different colors ”, he explains angrily. “I had to start teleworking and my back pain started, so I needed a decent chair. But whenever I entered the web they were out of stock. The same in physical stores ”, he adds. Like him, hundreds of users no longer know what to do to get an accessible desk chair.
Distribution chains like Ikea sales have quadrupled online of products to be able to have a workspace at home. In the whole of 2020 that growth has been 25%, as pointed out a few months ago from the Swedish group. Furniture retail stores have also noticed this increased influx of buyers. After sales fell 90% at the start of the pandemic, many establishments were able to offset their revenue for the entire year in an effect boomerang never seen.
It has been a long time since they have invested as much in the home as has happened now, but it is also true that there have been companies that have not returned to activity. And it is that the evolution of sales has been very different depending on the type of product and the markets of each manufacturer. In 2019, only 8% of those employed in Spain worked at home and in a few months we go to more than 30%. Hence, the demand for ergonomic chairs, for example, has increased by up to 200% since the arrival of the Covid, according to a Lambda3 study.
With such a stir in the market and suffocating demand, we have contacted Ikea to verify the problem and understand the current out-of-stock situation. “The increase in demand was a huge challenge for us. We have been working with our suppliers for months on availability, however, when your sales are greater than your production you have a problem and that’s where we find ourselves in certain products ”, explains Pablo Sanz de las Heras, Ikea’s head of availability and operations support.
The company tells us that they are only 5% below the usual availability ratio, but that it increases in various products, especially in office furniture.
Sanz explains that, although they are working hard to recover the levels of availability, prior to the pandemic, “it is quite a challenge because regional restrictions do not help in this way. The supply chain is being subjected to changes in restrictions that lead to changes in customer behavior. ”
“If one of our stores closes due to restrictions, this leads to an increase in online shopping, so we have to adapt our entire supply chain and our stores to that fact, knowing that there will be more last-mile transport. However, when the store reopens, the demand for products increases exponentially and therefore, we again have to work on increasing that availability ”, he details.
“In some product families we do not foresee to recover fully optimal supply levels until the end of summer”
Data provided by the company show us that the most demanded products are, indeed, those that flooded some comments on social networks in which they spoke of the lack of stock: FLINTAN Vissle chair gray, Markus dark gray chair, Micke desk 142×50 white, Renberget chair, Micke desk 73×50 white, ADILS white legs, Markus Desk and LÅNGFJÄLL Chair. Practically all office chairs and tables. “Although we try to match our production capacity with the level of demand, it is true that in some families of products we do not foresee to recover fully optimal supply levels until the end of summer”, explains Sanz.
It is also not easy if you want to set up your own gym at home
But the hardest hit has been the sales of sports products for the home: from exercise bikes to treadmills, stretching, floor stands and weight training weights. So much so that a whole underground market has emerged in the shadows to take advantage of an unprecedented surge in demand.
An example that illustrates the panorama well is that of Juan Merte, a resident of Huelva. “Since last summer I have been searching for 20 kg kettlebell weights online. Everyone knows that Decathlon’s are the most affordable, but since then they have not replaced one of the weight that I am looking for. A stock of weights came out recently (not the weight I’m looking for) and it lasted 3 days, ”Merte says. In general, sports equipment is scarce in sports stores online, and Amazon (where there is also a notable lack of stock) has become the alternative of many.
From Decathlon they tell us that they have experienced an increase in the demand for these products. A year later, they have seen an average increase of twice the number of units compared to the previous months, and in specific models this figure rose to three times in stationary bicycles. “In this context, high demand has made us run out of stock at some specific times of specific models ”, they detail from the company. It is nothing more than the delay that all stores are leading as a result of the boom that was experienced in the de-escalation, when the stores began to open and resume activity. If it was not possible to supply consumers then, it has not been possible to reach the optimum level months later, dragging the burden of the previous season.
Perhaps the lack of stock of stationary bicycles was experienced more markedly in some specific moments of the pandemic. As, for example, when citizens had to confine themselves to their homes during confinement. However, the lack of stock of weight plates, dumbbells and other related products has been continued during practically the entire epidemic.
Such is the phenomenon that there are even people who have dedicated themselves to hoarding merchandise, so that they buy all the units that they can treasure (of weights, for example) and They put them up for sale on second-hand product platforms such as Wallapop or Ebay. Many consumers have stayed during the peak demand period in the networks that they find Decathlon products on those totally new websites, while the availability in the stores is nil. And of course, the prices on the platforms are more expensive.
Fernando Móner, consumer expert and president of the Confederation of Consumers and Users (CECU) explains that in the factories themselves, the manufacturing processes have changed. “The schedules have been modified and the templates reduced on many occasions They can work at the same time to avoid a staff backlog. Many companies have also changed their manufacturing strategy based on how the market had been reoriented and circumstances, ”explains Móner.
“In a way, the little supply that there was has not been multiplied because the factories have not been able to respond. The same thing that society has suffered, so have the workers and companies that manufacture. And they don’t have the structure to do it. They are behind when companies have not performed 100% months ago“, Explain.
And to all this are added mobility restrictions and limitations between different communities, as in different countries. “That makes trade relations, imports and exports change. There are countries that have been totally closed even to the supply chain ”, he says. In Spain, the tunnel light is already closer. Although the shop windows and stands of certain products remain half empty a year after the start of the pandemic, economic and commercial resilience has not rested to adapt to brutal demand and increasingly online. Who would have told us a couple of years ago that we were going to run out of chairs and tables.