Mass. businesses brace for new round of product shortages

WEST ROXBURY, Mass. — To make the shelves appear more full, Derek Spindler has been spacing out the boxes inside his family’s shop, “Mr. Sweeper Sew and Vac,” on Centre Street.

“We used to have a bunch of [sewing machines], like this whole top shelf was full,” Spindler said. “Usually it would take about a week, but it took months to get them.”

Spindler said a lot of their products contain parts from China, Taiwan, and Germany, and shipping delays caused by the pandemic have been a nightmare.

“If it’s hard to get parts again, and if it’s hard to get sewing machines again from overseas, then there will be a big impact on us again,” Spindler said.

Whether it’s appliances, groceries, electronics, toys, or hardware supplies, most retailers have been affected in some way by COVID-19′s disruption to the global supply chain.

Randy Sprankle, a grocery store owner in Pennsylvania, warns prices on some of your favorite products—like Christmas ham—will go up.

“Last year, $1.69 to this year—we’re looking at surveys around $2.59. You know, a dollar more than last year,” Sprankle said.

Dr. Yossi Sheffi, an MIT professor who specializes in supply chain management, said reduced air travel is going to impact items imported from overseas, like iPhones and computer chips.

“I would expect problems in stuff that usually flies. Anything that is expensive and small flies,” Dr. Sheffi said.

Sheffi recently self-published a book—”The New (Ab)Normal—which examines how COVID-19 has disrupted the global supply chain.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad because we are more prepared for this,” he said.

“People now in factories and warehouses have dividers that they can work between. Everybody is wearing a mask. People understand the issue better,” Dr. Sheffi said.

But Steven Meranda at Atlas True Value in West Roxbury said they’re preparing for a difficult winter.

“It could be anywhere a couple of weeks, to some of my distributors are saying we won’t have things in until next spring,” Meranda said.

Meranda said a lot of the manufacturers that produce their products are still running at a reduced rate.

For example, he said the company that make their rakes is only operating at 75%.

“Just try to keep in mind that it may be difficult, or there may be delays in getting the stuff that you need,” Meranda said.

“You may want to think ahead. I’m not saying run out and clear the shelves in the store, but if you think you might need something, maybe get an extra one or two of them just to have in case,” he said.