The Out-of-Stock Dilemma
- Sep 25, 2021
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We’ve been through quite a time, haven’t we? Maybe you’ve noticed it, maybe you haven’t, but there have been tremendous supply shortages across a variety of industries. As flower farmers, seeds have been hard to come by. As florists, roses and glassware are almost impossible to find. And, as manufacturers of flower frogs, metals have been sluggish to arrive. If you’re lucky, you’re faced with months-long lead times, but in a lot of cases, orders are simply canceled with no expected restock date.
For buyers and suppliers alike, the current reality is nothing short of a nightmare. And, as a bit of a nerd when it comes to economics, I’ve taken an interest in how a pandemic has turned our trusted supply chain on its end. Sure, we’ve been dealing with the virus for a lot longer than we expected, but I don’t think any of us predicted long-term effects that will potentially linger for years to come.
There are a lot of reasons why out-of-stocks are happening, and of course, COVID can be pegged as the root cause. The lockdown in Spring of 2020 brought everything to a standstill. As companies scrambled to reorganize, each production-less week put them farther behind on current orders. Once restrictions were lifted, most companies were only able to resume at partial capacity, meaning it was going to take them even longer to get on schedule.
Meanwhile, most of the US population was under strict quarantine guidelines and embracing staying at home. A rejuvenated lifestyle of DIY projects and new hobbies ignited through the country and the demand for common supplies skyrocketed overnight. Under any other circumstance, manufacturers would have been elated to see these record-breaking numbers, but almost every shop floor was still limping along with stifled production capacity.
Simply put, suppliers are underwater and aren’t quite sure when they’ll be able to resurface.
The Floral Catastrophe
Sadly, many US farms didn’t survive the shutdown, and those that did struggled to keeps crops healthy without having enough hands. With floral events (like weddings and conferences) canceled and impulse bouquet buying at grocery stores nonexistent due to lack of foot traffic, farmers were left with no choice but to compost profitable crops. Mind you, many of these crops are seasonal, meaning they won’t generate revenue again until the next season and farms had already invested in the seeds and labor to get them going in the first place.
But most of the flowers in the US are imported anyway, what about globally-sourced blooms? Well, what you may not know is that exporters rely on cargo -and- commercial flights to move product. International travel halted leaving a significant number of planes grounded right when the demand for home-delivery consumer products skyrocketed. This scenario has created long-lasting delays for imports, and let’s not forget, flowers can’t exactly handle being stuck in the supply chain for lengths of time.
Adding insult to injury, South America has experienced abnormal rain and cold weather, cutting rose and carnation yields by nearly half – HALF. While the weather isn’t COVID related, the demand for these types of flowers certainly is. The wedding industry has been busy due to rescheduling by 2020’s couples, and those who had already booked events for 2021 pre-pandemic. Pretty much, this year has been what I refer to as a “twofer.” One year, double the weddings.
Having double the business during a flower shortage is stressful enough for a florist, and unfortunately, the sourcing challenges don’t stop there. Glassware is almost impossible to find. Those classic cylinder vases? Grab ‘em when you see ‘em!
I was talking with one of our flower frog distributors one day and she was expressing how difficult it had become to get glassware. When I asked why, her answer made complete sense: booze comes in bottles. We became daily drinkers during quarantine and glass manufacturers were inundated with POs for bottles to keep up with our new boredom-induced pastime. With events off the table, glassware wasn’t a priority, and manufacturers were so pressed to fill the current orders on a skeleton crew that building inventory for “when this is all over” was not an option.
The Seed Shortage
With hopes that things would get better in 2021 (don’t get me wrong, they have in a lot of ways), a new challenge has plagued this year’s flower farming season – a shortage of seeds. Honestly, when it comes to the seed shortage, we’re bummed, but we understand. There’s been a surge in folks planting their own gardens and you’ll never find us discouraging anyone to connect with nature.
We want to share the farming experience with everyone, and we’re glad that many folks have found the same peace that we have in the dirt under their fingernails. But, it does create another demand-driven issue for farmers. Because many seed-packing processes are highly manual, suppliers simply can’t fill the packets fast enough. We’ve felt this every time we place orders and have had to make some serious changes to ensure we had flowers to make it through the season. We couldn’t get some of our favorites and have been in a hamster wheel of placing orders only to have a large portion of them canceled.
An Update on the Flower Frogs
All of this leads us to the actual -POINT- of this blog post. We know that a lot of the flower frogs have been out of stock for a while and trust us when we say that we’re just as anxious as you are to restock the shelves. For those of you just getting to know us, the family behind Harmony Harvest Farm is the same family behind the only US flower frog manufacturing company in the US, Floral Genius.
We’re fortunate because our supply issues don’t really involve labor; our team has remained steadfast, going above and beyond to keep as many things on the shelf as they can. They’re really amazing people.
For us, raw materials, specifically nails, have been the biggest challenge. We are pretty insistent on getting our nails made in the US and because we’re obsessed with quality, there’s only one company in the entire country that has the ability to make nails to our standards. They’re also awesome, but have been up against the same walls as many other manufacturers – increased demand with lower production capacity. Though lockdown feels “over”, many organizations find themselves in periods of near-shutdowns due to COVID spikes in production teams. Another hamster wheel from hell.
So, we work strategically. We are in constant communication with our suppliers about order progress, and accepting partial shipments whenever available. We’re really excited because after waiting 26 weeks, we’re about to get 10% of a raw material order that was supposed to keep the shelves stocked from July to December. While our production of pin holders has been significantly affected this summer, we’ve still got this. And, unlike a lot of other supplies (like roses and glassware), we know that we’ll have your favorite flower frog styles and sizes flowing once again in the next few weeks.
If we’re out of stock on the frogs you need, send us an email. We can get you on a waitlist for the next batch that comes out of production. Depending on where we are in the production cycle, it may take as many as six to eight weeks to get your order, but you’ll get them. We’ll make darn sure of that.
The Message In a Bottle.
So what does all of this mean exactly? Well, just like handwashing, we’ll have to get better at habits like being patient and flexible. At the end of the day, these manufacturers, distributors, and florists have one thing in common – they’re anchored by people. Regardless of technology, machines and robots are not behind these businesses, it’s hardworking, genuine people. People who want to fill the orders and make things happen like they did before, and the shortcomings in the supply chain are not their fault. They’re driven by an unprecedented circumstance that has affected every single one of us.
While we might be finding our footing in this brave new world, the initial impacts of COVID have long-lasting effects on the entire supply chain. Even if the pandemic ends tomorrow, everything wouldn’t go back to normal, and we’ll just have to work with what we have. Couples will have to come to terms with not getting *THAT* flower in their wedding florals, designers will have to get creative with arrangement containers, and we’ll all have to be grateful for the people who bend over backwards to get you what you need. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe we’ll stop being so hell-bent on getting exactly what we want and find the magic in what we’re afforded.