The one-two punch of low supply and high demand is wreaking havoc on some local furniture and appliance stores.
From couches and chairs to refrigerators and dishwashers, Quad-City consumers should be prepared for the possibility of waiting months to find what they're looking for.
At Dan Vinar Furniture in Rock Island, owner Lisa Vinar said she ordered furniture for customers in October that's not yet scheduled for production. At Zeglin's Home TV & Appliance stores in the Quad-Cities, customers have been waiting for their freezer orders since March.
"There's a raw-materials shortage, factory shutdowns and people wanting to buy, so it's been a snowball effect," Vinar said Friday. "As a result of so many people staying home, they looked around and decided they need new furniture.
"If I ordered today for someone, it would be May or June for delivery. I have hardly anything on my floor."
Spending much more time at home, many Quad-Citians have discovered it isn't easy to improve their surroundings. Building materials are expensive and/or hard to find. New swimming pools and fireplaces are taking months to order, and boats, bicycles and other recreation-related items often are in short supply.
Duncan Kramer, of Zeglin's, said the combination of pandemic-related plant closures and other supply-chain interruptions, along with increases in consumer demand, had escalated shortages that first showed up during initial shelter-in-place practices last spring.
"We've seen a demand on freezers since March, and we were beginning to think it's where people were storing their toilet paper," he said. "Think about it, though: A family of five that was usually gone to work and school for eight hours a day is now spending most hours at home.
"They're opening the refrigerator doors a lot more, and people are using all of their appliances more. Most manufacturing systems are set up to handle a certain number of back orders. They can't keep up now.
"There have been COVID outbreaks in (manufacturing) plants. People unloading trains got infected. Truck drivers got infected. It's a ripple effect. It's pretty much everything, and the predicted recovery has been pushed back repeatedly."
Since some appliance makers have been harder hit than others, Kramer said, he tries to show customers there could be options.
"You may come in wanting dishwasher X, but we have dishwashers Y and Z that have similar features," he said. "You just have to be flexible on brands."
There are exceptions.
Lee Kerr, owner of Slumberland at 616 E. Kimberly Rd., said he had changed his furniture-ordering process to beef up inventory.
Items that last year took just a few weeks to ship now can take many months. Rather than wait for special orders he knows will be delayed, Kerr has been ordering more inventory that is immediately available. He has added warehouse space to accommodate pieces he can get now.
"The thing I've been doing is buying ahead since about May," he said. "Things we ordered then or in June and July are starting to come in now.
"We had trouble with some mattress manufacturers because the government was using them for (making) PPE."
At Bruce's New & Used Furniture downtown Davenport, Sheli Hesseling said her store has a good supply of inventory too, but some items are nearly impossible to find.
"As a smaller business, not a big-box store, we have an advantage," she said. "We order by the semi load, not by the specific order."
There are exceptions to that too.
"Some mattresses we haven't been able to get," she said. "Bunk beds and end tables, too — overseas, container goods; those are harder to get.
"It (COVID-19) is making the process of furniture harder to make and harder to get."