To Have and Have Not: AVB’s Chad Evans on Inventory Availability

By Andy Kriege, YSN

The following is the first in a three-part series on securing inventory for your store in an increasingly tight environment.

Americans who are stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic aren’t just video-conferencing and binge-watching — they’re also replacing appliances that may need service, no longer fit the décor, or are simply at the end of their lifecycle.

As people spend more time around the home, they also have more time to ponder purchases and shop online. That, coupled with government stimulus checks, have given consumers all the incentive they need to buy now. And while not all independent dealers are experiencing a boom in demand, most BrandSource members are.

Independents pride themselves on having the products their customers need and the ability to get them into their homes immediately. But that has become more of a challenge than ever right now, as COVID-related plant shutdowns and slowdowns put a kink in the supply chain and product shortages continue to loom over the industry.

YSN asked Chad Evans, AVB’s Vice President of Merchandising, for his expert take on the current supply and demand imbalance issues. Here’s what he had to say.

Which categories have been most impacted by the supply constraints?

Chad Evans: Freezers, top mount refrigerators, entry-level top load laundry and side-by-side refrigerators will probably remain hard to find for some time. Dishwashers have been tight as well. These hotspots have been very fluid and seem to change by the week.

Which categories have the fewest issues?

AVB merchandising chief Chad Evans

Evans: Cooking products and higher-end goods seem to be more readily available, but there are some soft spots there as well.

What is causing the problem?

Evans: Primary manufacturing facilities being closed due to illness; product component factories being closed as non-essential; workers not showing up for work; and social distancing measures in factories causing production inefficiencies. All that, coupled with unusually high demand.

When do you expect the situation to improve?

Evans: The hope is that by late summer some of the issues will abate and start to clean themselves up. Nevertheless, there are some really constrained categories, like freezers, that could remain tight throughout this year and possibly into next.

What advice do you have for members?

Evans: Members should scan the order systems of each vendor partner throughout the day, check with their distributors, and buy what’s available, even if it’s a brand you wouldn’t normally floor. Get your orders in the system to assure your share of what may be limited inventory.

Any other recommendations?

Evans: There are several other best practices that seem to be helping dealers get their fair share of product. First, build out orders and get them placed and staged out; this will get you in line to get product as it becomes available. Forecasting has never been more important.

Also, work with reps to locate inventory and work closeout and obsolete lists for opportunities. And order more than you think you might need, especially if something is available.

The Bottom Line: According to Evans, it is important to be nimble and diligent in searching out inventory in order to meet the inordinate demands the pandemic has placed upon us. Retailers who put in the extra time and effort to find what is available and place orders, and are not married to specific makes or models, are doing reasonably well in meeting that demand.

BrandSource is a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc.