Supply chain struggles could make some summer gear hard to find at local outfitters
Last July, Brett Lee ordered a shipment of hiking shoes for his store, Straightline Sports. He hoped they would arrive in time for this summer. He’s still waiting.
The pandemic disrupted supply chains all over the world while social distancing created a wave of demand for outdoor gear.
Local outfitters expected that trend to continue and got ahead on ordering product.
“We kind of knew it was going to be a similar situation,” said Ross Kirby at Orange Peel Bikes. “So, you know, we just have to plan really far, like a year in advance, to get bikes here.”
Shortages of raw materials such as rubber, plastic, carbon, fiberglass, steel, wood and aluminum, combined with labor shortages at ports and factory shutdowns in China, Malaysia and Vietnam have caused higher prices on gear and less inventory.
“It all starts with the production problem, but then shipping just makes it worse,” Lee said.
Labor shortages at ports and in the trucking industry have contributed heavily to shortages and delays.
A Washington Post article from November 2021 explains how shipping containers are scarce due to high demand for consumer goods and shortages of the materials needed to manufacture more containers, which has also affected shipping.
Hiking shoes and boots are expected to see especially low stock. Rubber and plastic shortages have affected production of shoes worldwide. Shoes and boots made in countries with high rates of factory stoppages, such as China, Malaysia and Vietnam, are the most difficult to get in stock, according to several outfitters.
“It gets to a point that they’re going to be so late from when I wanted them, that a lot of them, I won’t take them because it’s too late,” Lee said, referring to the shoes he ordered last July.
According to local outfitters, availability for a wide range of gear may be impacted this summer including carabiners for rock climbing, carbon fiber paddle boards, life jackets, paddles, knives, hatchets, tents and sleeping bags. Bikes have also not fully recovered from their extreme shortage in 2020.
Lee was optimistic about the availability of fishing gear, though.
“In the fishing area, it seems it’s getting better.” Lee said. “I mean, this summer is going to be way better than it was last summer or the summer before.”
According to Willy Cutler, a manager at Backdoor Sports, gear shipped from European countries such as France, Austria and Germany are not experiencing shipping delays as often or for as long. Raw material shortages, however, are making impacts everywhere.
Lee said he’s never seen a supply shortage like this in the 35 years he’s been doing business.
“No, no, never. Not even close,” Lee said.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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