Retailers have trouble getting supply to keep up with demand

Business has been good for ­Capital Iron, but it would be even better if its supply chain could keep up with demand.

Owner Mike Black said he had expected 45 upright patio heaters to arrive last Friday — and anticipated selling all of them immediately — but his supplier called to say the order wasn’t coming due to excessive demand.

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“I’ve been making calls to three or four other suppliers and there’s a chance I can get some in November or December,” said Black, noting supply chains are fragile and, in some cases, breaking down. “Even if you could place an order directly with a factory in China, you wouldn’t get it for 90 days.”

Black has some higher-end propane patio table heaters, and is pivoting to custom-make more economical versions by building frames and inserting the propane delivery system.

He said hot tubs and barbecues are also hot retail commodities. He has 60 hot tubs on order, with about half already sold, even though the order won’t arrive for three weeks. Capital Iron is also trying to secure more barbecues outside its traditional spring and summer season.

“If I were a clairvoyant, I would have made a killing,” said Black. “But who could have seen all this nine months ago?

“What it’s really come down to is the fact that people are trying to spend as much time as they can outdoors, keeping in mind the social-distancing aspect of it.”

Normally, Black sells 20 to 30 of the more expensive patio heaters a year. In 2020, he’s sold nearly 200.

People staying home has meant a brisk business for some products, he said.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

— With files from Louise Dickson

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