Retra members have enjoyed good business since shops reopened on June 15, following a three-month lockdown, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but sales have been hampered by major stock shortages.
With factories closed during lockdown and a huge surge in demand from homeowners who, after being stuck indoors for weeks on end, have decided to spend money improving their houses rather than go on holiday, the UK appliance market is suffering from a severe shortage of stock.
Several retailers Alert spoke to said they were finding it extremely difficult to get hold of products from suppliers, including major domestic appliances and TVs.
Amanda Gray, head of finance at Euronics dealer Sound & Vision Electronics, in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex said the business had experienced its busiest trading day in 50 years on June 15, but that stock shortages were a big problem: “I could sell more, but I can’t get the stock. During lockdown, freezers were a nightmare to get hold of and we’ve had shortages of tumble dryers and dishwashers – people are buying display models.”
She added: “We’ve been selling brands we wouldn’t normally stock – if it’s available from Euronics, we’re buying it. Our main TV brands are Sony and Panasonic – we can’t get hold of Panasonic stock, so we’re selling Mitchell & Brown and we’re taking in LG and Samsung.
“We’re losing sales on TVs every day – I’ve never experienced such difficulties in obtaining stock and it’s very frustrating. On white goods, we do a lot with Hotpoint, Bosch and Siemens – microwaves are like gold dust!”
Speaking to Alert, Matt Renaut, managing director at Dacombes of Wimborne, in Dorset, said: “The main problem has been stock, stock and stock. Factories have been closed and there was a big demand towards the end of lockdown. We can’t get hold of TVs – high-end or low-end – and refrigeration is a major issue. Factories aren’t producing enough. I’ve got customers who are waiting for fridges up until November. You’ve got to fight for stock and make sure stuff is on back order.”
Paul Mead, managing director at Bedford-based retailer Michael R Peters, told Alert that stock availability had been a major challenge, but added: “Business is good – customers seem to appreciate the independent more than before. Independents have found new ways to look after their customers, through technology such as Facetime and WhatsApp. Many customers have been let down by the ‘sheds’, online retailers and other high-profile ‘big boys.’ Now is the time for independents to keep that momentum and keep themselves at the forefront of their customers’ minds.”
He added: “Many of our customers have called and spent their cancelled holiday money with us, upgrading to better TVs like OLED. Built-in installations have seen a significant rise in sales. I can only be thankful that we handle the whole installation process within the business, not needing to outsource to any third parties.”
Commenting on the shortage of TVs, Robert Hughes, chairman of the Hughes Electrical chain, said:
“One thing all [retail] channels have experienced is a seemingly unquenchable demand for panels, particularly in smaller screen sizes. What started as a panic buy pre-lockdown has morphed into a relentless demand, which the supply chain is struggling to cope with, judging by online stock-outs and empty shelves.
“We all remember the days when 10 million panels would be sold a year and we all witnessed this market slowly halving in volume, as people substituted quality for quantity. This may now be changing. Streaming services have reported a 71 per cent increase in use this July, compared with pre-pandemic levels, suggesting that the general public was not just gorging on box sets while in lockdown, but has continued its habits since then. This has fuelled the demand for multiple screens in households and the hope is that this continues for not just months but years to come.”