Expert Warehouse and the New Normal, Or How Consumers Can Stop Worrying and Learn to Love WFH*

Hunkered-down consumers are investing in their homes.

By Stephen Paczkowski, Expert Warehouse

The “new normal” has affected every industry we can think of, beyond even the obvious ones like healthcare or restaurants, nightclubs and bars. 

All home industries sold through AVB have been affected in some lesser or greater way. Mattresses, furniture, white goods, brown goods … all have suffered, much like the workers (and their families) who make a living building, shipping, sourcing and selling those products. Our hearts still go out to them and all folks affected by the pandemic the world over. 

Expert Warehouse has also seen significant setbacks in two critical areas: Freight delivery times and inventory. The first, freight times, can be attributed to a dearth of available labor and the subsequent lack of trailer space. Product shortages, however, are reflective of several factors: a tariff backlash and the subsequent shuffling of countries of origin; ripple effects from COVID-related factory closures; and increased demand gobbling up existing short supply driven by stimulus funds, home entertainment needs and household upgrades as families hunker down and attend work and school from home. 

In EW’s discussions with vendors, the “Big Three” of TV — Samsung, LG and Sony — are predicting tight inventory from late October through the holiday period. This probably means shortages loom ahead for the traditional Black Friday sales period, especially in entry-level video. One can see how the trailing credit roadmaps for Black Friday have narrowed from the previous month, from what was once to be a heavily promoted cycle to a much more focused collection of increased TCs. Couple this with the closing of big box stores the day before Black Friday, and you have what for the first time in decades may be slim pickings for “value TV” and other doorbuster-type promotions. 

In audio, A/V receivers from Denon to Yamaha are all experiencing huge inventory shortages, with single-digit units trickling into multiple warehouses. This category is not showing any signs of improvement, but we continue to work with vendors and widen our partnerships to find solutions.   Shipments of soundbars are also spotty, but the category has better availability overall. Deliveries of speakers, as a general term for something that produces sound and is driven by an amp, seem for the most part to have slowed but not stopped.

Lastly, we leave you with a brief overview of the golden quarter. With the ever-shifting dynamic of balancing school, work, entertainment and health, it seems clear that Americans will be adjusting to more time at home for the foreseeable future. The shopper consensus seems to center on making sure one spends what one can afford on products that educate, entertain and, ultimately, provide joy and satisfaction. “Our COVID situation is not changing and we cannot stop it, so spend the money on the family and live as best you can,” the thinking appears to be.

Even with an upcoming election, and unemployment due to COVID at the highest point ever before we pick a president, financial markets seem to point to a quick but delicate recovery. Housing starts and automobile sales also seem to suggest that scenario. It may therefore be a good time for consumers to cash in some investments and enhance their living space. As reflected in the way the consumer tech market is trending, the mood of the consumer tilts positive toward spending, so let’s all make sure we buy what we can now so we can sell to our customers later

With apologies to Stanley Kubrick, customers, with our members’ help, will hopefully stop worrying and learn to love working from home* (WFH). If that is the hand we are dealt, we should embrace it and help consumers get what they need.

Stephen Paczkowski is a Buyer/Channel Manager at Expert Warehouse, the tech distribution arm of YSN publisher AVB Inc.