The unpredictable supply chain was among the top challenges retailers faced in 2021, and the disruptions continue so far this year. Predictions about when things could “return to normal” vary widely. But what if this is what normal looks like now?
Gordon Industries, an importer and wholesaler that operates such retail websites as ChristmasCentral.com and PoolCentral.com, is not taking anything for granted. Gordon Industries now acts as if supply chains will remain slow and unreliable forever.
“I think this is the way things will be from now on,” says Laura Gordon, director of public relations and communications at Gordon Industries.
With no end to supply chain problems in sight, she says Gordon Industries has been ordering much earlier than usual. Gordon says that before Christmas 2021, the retailer ordered enough inventory for at least the next two holiday seasons. Previously, its practice was to start ordering Christmas inventory in January of each year in the past.
She says the retailer also has cut its assortment dramatically to prioritize keeping its highest-demand products in stock. Gordon says the retailer has trimmed “many SKUs,” but declined to reveal specifics.
Nobody knows when supply chains will return to some version of normal. The best strategy for retailers is to adapt to the current situation, retailers say. That means planning inventory levels that assume deliveries from abroad will be slow and erratic. Retailers believe just-in-time delivery — the practice of receiving goods at the time they are needed for sale — is too risky for now.
Donald Tydeman, principal at Salt Cellar, also believes global supply chains are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels of reliability.
“I initially thought these issues would sort out after a year or so. Now, I am more unsure that things will ever be like pre-2020,” Tydeman says. “This may be the new normal, with uncertainty being the wild card as the global supply chain is hammered by global events.”
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