Global complications hit local businesses
Pandemic-induced backlogs and complications in the global supply chain remain a challenge for U.S. business owners who are restarting operations or trying to stock their shelves in anticipation of a booming recovery.
This supply chain backlog is even having an impact in Santa Barbara County, where some owners feel the blunt of global shortages.
Bob Wesley, the manager of Meritage Wine Market in downtown Santa Barbara, said it’s been months since the store has stocked some of its most popular imported wines due to a surging demand in the U.S. That has created backlogs in Europe.
“Things have slowed down tremendously,” Mr. Wesley told the News-Press. “Items have been out of stock for months and months. A lot of importers, when I look through their catalog, they just notate a product arriving in June, which could mean July or August as far as we can tell.”
Part of the reason for the local backlog of orders, Mr. Wesley said, has come as a secondary impact of California’s reopening.
With so many restaurants and retailers looking to beef up inventory immediately to serve an influx of customers, wine importers have struggled to deliver and maintain inventory in the same way as before the pandemic.
“The more immediate impact of California reopening — it’s like the dam has burst,” Mr. Wesley said. “With restaurants reopening, everybody wants their product now.”
In addition to the backlog, the U.S. is also seeing a shortage in truck drivers, which in turn, is leading to delays in product delivery.
Mr. Wesley has experienced this firsthand, as he used to receive orders within a day or two.
Now he’s waiting for months to receive some of the most popular products he sells.
Mr. Wesley noted he’s heard from multiple retailers that a lack of manpower is leading to many of the issues that he and other retailers are experiencing with obtaining supply.
He explained that it’s not so much an issue of wine supply, but rather, that there are not enough truck drivers to handle the influx in demand.
This same effect of the truck driver shortage has also been felt by Josh Ellis, the brewmaster and co-founder of M. Special Brewing Co.
Mr. Ellis told the News-Press that the truck driver shortage has impacted the speed of grain deliveries in recent months.
“There are not enough truckers to drive all the loads,” Mr. Ellis said. “I used to get my grain delivered in a day, and now it takes over a week. So I have the logistics problem of going from grain to glass to beer, which is my charge and has always been something that I really enjoyed. But it’s becoming more complex because of supply chain issues.”
In addition to the truck driver shortage, Mr. Ellis said he has felt the impact of the aluminum can shortage that plagued the U.S. in the fall and winter of last year.
In lieu of COVID-related bar closures, more brewers sought to package their products in aluminum cans to keep revenues afloat. But the influx in demand for cans led to intense shortages nationwide.
To fight the shortages, Mr. Ellis purchased a year’s worth of cans last year because “(suppliers) couldn’t guarantee that they were going to have enough cans for us to get through the year.”
“For a while, you couldn’t get cans at all,” Mr. Ellis added. “A lot of stuff just wasn’t coming over from China. Supply chains got interrupted, and I think it’s taken a little while to actually manifest themselves in the problems that we have now.”
He continued, “It is kind of funny when people think about the pandemic being over. Economically, it’s not. There’s still stuff to shake out in the supply chains.”
Though some business owners are still struggling with the effects of the backlogged supply chain, others say they are seeing a return to normalcy in terms of inventories and supply chains.
John Dixon, the owner of Tri-County Produce, told the News-Press that deliveries to the store have been occurring at a normal rate, adding that he has not seen any major impact from the supply chain backlog in recent months.
Except for a few imported items that are delayed or backlogged, Mr. Dixon said his inventories have been fulfilled by normal movements in the supply chain.
Though stores during the pandemic had trouble keeping goods on the shelves at times, Mr. Dixon said this was largely due to a manpower shortage. Essentially, there was not enough manpower to deliver the goods quickly enough to meet the demand.
He said in some cases, that is what is happening with delayed shipment of items even now. The item is available, but it is simply delayed because there is not enough manpower to deliver the items as quickly as they are needed.
“Things got backlogged because of the pandemic, and it’s just taking a while to catch up on everything,” Mr. Dixon said. “Just like during the pandemic itself, it’s not that we had a shortage of food, we had a kind of emergency situation in the distribution program with being able to distribute the product fast enough to stores.
“It became a problem during the peak of the pandemic, and with all the people doing all the hoarding, that created more of a shortage,” he said.
“The product was there, but stores couldn’t get it quick enough.”