SUNDRE — The owner of Murf’s Outdoor Equipment, which has been in business for almost 16 years, said the supply shortage has not spared any sporting goods stock.
“It doesn’t really matter what part of the store we’re dealing with, whether it be fishing supplies or hunting supplies or carburetors or lawnmower parts or belts — it doesn’t really matter. They’re all pretty much affected equally,” Darryl Murphy said on Dec. 28.
And when items might be expected to be delivered is anyone’s guess, said Murphy.
“Nobody promises you a date or time of arrival. Prior to COVID, they used to estimate a ship date. You don’t get those now because basically the suppliers don’t know,” he said.
The delays seem to stem primarily from large manufacturers that were temporarily shut down in the U.S., he said, adding that pausing production for several months straight without any activity at all will cause quite a backlog for companies that supply all of North America. Illustrating the point, he said a fairly common lawn mower belt that is usually in stock, took some three-plus months to get back on the shelf.
One of their chainsaw suppliers has been unable to get anything shipped from overseas on Sea-Can containers and even resorted to a costly alternative in an attempt to provide supply, he said.
“They told us they are actually flying steel from Germany over to North America to get the chainsaw bars made. I can’t imagine the price to fly steel.”
Prior to the pandemic, he said that supplier was paying anywhere between $1,200 and $2,500 for a single shipping container, depending on where it was coming from.
“That same supplier says that a single Sea-Can coming from Germany over here now is $25,000 — that’s what our rep says,” he told The Albertan.
- RELATED: Supply chain issues affecting many sectors, including grocery stores
- RELATED: Innisfail GM praises technicians for fixing vehicles despite supply chain issues
By extension, the supply crunch impacted potential holiday sales, he said, citing for example a popular Stihl handheld mini chainsaw that many people had been calling to ask about.
“But we couldn’t get any,” he said, adding manufacturers are waiting for components like switches and microchips that are made overseas.
“It holds up their production. They’ve got the units, they just don’t have all of the components to finish assembling them. So, it’s affected us on being able to get certain models” that have been unavailable for at least the past six months, he said.
Ice fishing rods are another item that would usually be abundantly available, he said.
Usually ordering in as many as 24 rods in one month going into the holiday season, which is of course also the kickoff to ice fishing season, Murphy said his supplier had only five available at an Edmonton warehouse.
“That’s all he could spare me — that’s all he had. So, obviously I took all five. I would fathom they would have 500 or more on hand at any other given time,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “Who would think you’d be short of ice fishing rods?”
And earlier this year when heading into the hunting season, Murphy said he placed a limit on the amount of ammunition patrons could purchase.
“Because I did that, I actually had some ammunition going into the hunting season,” he said. “It’s not nice to say, but I didn’t want somebody coming through town that you’re never going to see again, taking all 10 boxes of ammo and then when my loyal customers come in for hunting season, they have nothing.”
Limiting the purchase amount helped ensure they were able to maintain at least some stock — “some” being the operative word in the sentence.
“There are still half a dozen calibers that we had no chance of getting,” he said, adding not a single one of three suppliers he deals with had any available.
“There was lots of standard calibers that just no suppliers had,” he said, adding it didn’t make a difference whether he was inquiring with suppliers in B.C., Edmonton, or even out east.
All of these complications have also sent costs soaring.
“Prices are going through the roof,” he said, adding many items have increased about 10 to 15 per cent.
With ammunition being scarce, many hunters have resorted to preparing their own rounds. But gunpowder has also been in short supply at a rapidly increasing price point.
“If we get any re-loading powder, my cost on it is what I was retailing it for last year,” he said.
In other words, powder that just a couple years ago was retailing for less than $50 per pound, is now expected to sell for upwards of $80, he said.
And companies are not only not promising specific delivery dates, but also how much something will cost, he said, adding prices are subject to change.
“Doesn’t matter what we’re buying. They are not guaranteeing the prices — prices are not locked in,” he said.
“It’s kind of a common denominator, is yes, the prices have gone up, no I can’t tell you when it’ll be here, no I can’t tell you how much it’s going to be when it gets here, no I can’t tell you how many we’re going to get — that’s basically all we can tell people, is unfortunately it’s out of our hands,” he said.
“And it’s out of our suppliers’ hands. We can’t be ripping on our suppliers either, because they don’t have the product to sell us. So, it’s not their fault either.”
Fortunately, he said the majority of retail customers understand the situation and have largely been patient.
“Where it’s causing problems is the service industry, where you’re repairing something,” he said, adding those patrons regularly refuse to believe a unit has not yet been repaired because parts remain on order.
“They don’t believe you after a month you still haven’t got it fixed.”