Ottawa companies are struggling with global supply chain disruptions

“Nothing works well, everything is painful. We have never, never ever, ever experienced anything like it.”

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In the 51 years, Laurysen Kitchens Ltd. has existed, the Stittsville – based furniture joinery business never ran into the snare of supply chain problems it faced in 2021.

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It’s like the O-train, where the wheels have fallen off, ”says co-owner Caroline Castrucci.

She provides a partial list of her supply-related heartaches. The company needs medium-density fiberboard (MDF) but can not get any. While the Laurysen needs 4,000 hinges a week, it only receives 2,500. Door manufacturers who previously completed orders of two weeks now take 10 to 14 weeks. About four months ago, Laurysen ordered a van, but was told in the past week that the supplier cancels his order and returns his deposit.

Meanwhile, Laurysen’s business has grown 40 percent over the past two years. However, due to supply problems, its products now cost more and take longer to make. In recent years, a customer who ordered kitchen cabinets in mid-October has received them before Christmas. Now it may be until March or April next year before the current orders are fulfilled, Castrucci says.

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“Nothing works well, everything is painful,” she says. “We’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Complaints like Castrucci’s resonate throughout Ottawa and beyond, as large and small businesses, and especially retailers, face price increases, delays and shortages due to global supply chains that are stressed and broken by pandemic-related pressures.

Months ago, shortages of timber, computer chips and household appliances were among the early hotspots for global supply chain problems. Disruptions are now affecting companies across the spectrum, which e.g. leads to signs at Starbucks locations warning that some items are inaccessible and empty shelves in IKEA department stores.

IKEA Canada’s public relations manager Lisa Huie says supply chain disruptions, port congestion and historically high demand have disrupted the sea freight market, limiting her entire industry. In response, IKEA is taking “extraordinary actions”, including buying its own shipping containers and chartering space on ships, she says.

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Huie encourages customers to check online before visiting IKEA stores to see if products are available.

In Ottawa these days, the availability and price of everything from Scandinavian furniture to Asian-made children’s costumes to Russian buckwheat has been affected.

When Michelle Groulx, CEO of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas, surveyed member companies in late August, she was surprised when supply chain disruptions were the most frequently mentioned challenge, more than lack of staffing or capacity constraints. Despite a small sample – only 145 out of about 4,000 companies responded – Groulx says the result was meaningful.

It is something that everyone is worried about, ”she says.

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Sheba Schmidt, co-owner of West End Kids on Richmond Road, says she is waiting for nearly 40 percent of her winter outerwear inventory, including items from high-profile brands she preferred not to mention, which make products in Turkey, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

“Most of the goods are on this side of the sea. The problem is getting the containers off the ships,” she says.

The brands are doing their best to get their goods to the West End Kids and speeding up goods by sending them by plane instead of on the ground, Schmidt says. “It simply came to our notice then. They do not charge me. I’m going to pay my normal shipping. “

She is happy that customers who want certain brands are making online pre-sales of items that will hopefully arrive before the snow flies. But Schmidt says fulfilling online orders has its own problems due to difficulties in obtaining shipping materials and even ink cartridges.

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Justyna Borowska, owner of two Ottawa locations in Wedel Touch of Europe, says prices of many of her imported groceries have risen sharply.  Jean Levac / Postmedia
Justyna Borowska, owner of two Ottawa locations in Wedel Touch of Europe, says prices of many of her imported groceries have risen sharply. Jean Levac / Postmedia Postmedia

Schmidt says she does not know what Black Friday awards she will offer this year. “ I have to have my margin, to be honest. It has been a very, very difficult time for all business owners. ”

In the modern store on Sussex Drive, owner Michael Shaikin says supply chain problems have doubled the wait time for Scandinavian furniture.

In Poland or Latvia, custom-made goods may be almost ready for use, except that they need screws and fasteners made in China, which are in short supply, he explains. The result is that items are shipped 16 or 20 weeks after ordering instead of the usual eight or 10 weeks, he says.

Meanwhile, distributors are lagging behind thanks to containers sitting in ports, and one of his US suppliers is so short-staffed that two people do everything in their warehouse, he notes. “There are so many different steps to the delays,” he says.

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The store’s business has grown 24 percent during the pandemic, and Shaikin says he was on the ball and ordered extra stock when COVID-19 first hit. But since then, worsening supply chain problems have driven up prices, he says. Shaikin gives the example of a chair that was $ 480 but jumped to $ 700 when he called it in.

“The brands say it will take six months before things normalize a little bit, but I don’t think prices will fall,” Shaikin says.

Justyna Borowska, owner of two recently opened Wedel Touch of Europe locations in Ottawa, says that of her many imported groceries, Russian buckwheat is the hardest to find. She says she is down on her last few packages due to difficulties in getting freight containers from Russia to Montreal.

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Meanwhile, customs duties on premium fat and flavorful Polish butter have risen by 200 percent, raising the price by several dollars to $ 18.99, Borowska says.

She says she tries to keep her shelves well-stocked – more than 18 countries are represented in her stores – by finding different suppliers throughout Eastern Europe.

In Orléans, Rissa Sant’anna, who makes soap and body care products in small batches under her Aromariss brand, says she has not raised her prices despite the fact that the cost of ingredients such as vegetable oils and essential oils has risen between 15 and 20 percent . “Ricus oil comes from India … It used to be cheap,” she says.

In addition, the containers Sant’anna uses to pack its products are out of stock, she says.

Groulx says she hopes consumers will be patient with retailers who are at the mercy of suppliers. Buyers should continue to support Ottawa companies instead of switching to big sellers, Groulx says.

“Buy locally and don’t turn to Amazon,” she says. “They face the same problems. This is a global, unanimous issue for everyone. It’s not like you’ll be satisfied faster by going to a giant.”

phum@postmedia.com

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