The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on supply chains for some Lawton businesses, causing longer wait times for receiving goods from manufacturers or not being able to get any products.
Escapes and More’s showroom is usually wall-to-wall hot tubs, said owner John Scantlin. Now, the once occupied by up to 24 hot tubs has five remaining hot tubs. The owners are filling the area with patio furniture and outdoor grills.
During the pandemic the outdoor store was able to remain open as an essential business because of its water treatment services and supplies, but when customers began receiving stimulus checks, canceling vacations and staying home, the retailer quickly sold through its inventory of hot tubs.
“It sure was good to have them,” said Scantlin. “We sold 13 in three weeks, something we had never done before.”
Now the owner is struggling to meet continued demand while facing longer and longer wait times from manufactures in California, Mexico and Canada. What once took just about two weeks can now take up to 20 weeks to receive a hot tub.
“All these manufacturers shut down for up to six weeks,” he said. “When they opened back up, they had to finish orders already in the queue, and because of social distancing and other requirements, it slowed everything down.”
Scantlin stressed that they are still able to meet customer demand, but it is taking longer; however, customers are very understanding of the situation, he said.
For Amanda Gann, owner of computer repair and custom build shop PC Works, the supply chain has been especially frustrating. The majority of computer components come from China and shipments from that country have all but stopped, leading to shortages and rising prices.
“Power supplies have been the worst and the prices are skyrocketing,” said Gann. “I had a power supply on back order for three weeks. I finally got it and then when I went back to reorder that same power supply the price had doubled. We’re trying to absorb as much of the price increases as we can, but the power supplies are what’s hurting us.”
Gann chose to close her shop for six weeks during the early days of the pandemic, and when she reopened, her store was well stocked in power supplies, mother boards and other components. She says people would come from as far away as Wichita Falls, Texas, to buy components from her that they couldn’t find anywhere else, allowing the store to offset some of the problems other electronics shops are suffering.
“We’re just carrying some brands we haven’t carried before because they’re all we can get. Video cards supplies are low, and prices have doubled since March,” Gann said. “We’re having a hard time finding mother boards and memory sets, but customers are very understanding. They know we all buy from the same place in China and we’re all hurting.”
Rains Furniture, TV and Appliance is feeling the pressure too, said store manager Brian Gosnell. An entire wall that once displayed refrigerators and freezers now sits nearly empty.
“Suppliers can’t put enough people on the assembly lines to keep up with demand,” Gosnell said. “We have no freezers in stock and probably won’t get any in for a month. Luckily, we have a big warehouse that we kept stocked up pretty well, but it’s starting to empty out, too.”
Darby’s Furniture owner Darren Meddars, although experiencing some issues with supply, remains optimistic.
“Slowly but surely we’re getting back to where we were,” he said. “The East Coast and West Coast closed before us and we get furniture from both places.”
For a time, the priority of trucking companies was the transport of essential items like personal protective equipment, medical supplies and food, which, although necessary, put a hinderance on orders for the furniture store.
“We’re a fifth-generation family business and we’ve seen the Great Depression, 9/11 and the 2008 housing market crash,” Meddars said. “Now we have 2020. We’ve always ran our business conservatively and we exspect to still be here next year and beyond.”
None of the businesses have had to lay off any employees and all expect to eventually return to “business as usual” while continuing to practice social distancing and other protective measures.