Could you struggle to get your hands on garden furniture?

Popular retailers like Argos, John Lewis and Ikea along with a host of other major firms appear to be running low of garden furniture stock with one even posting a warning on its website. 

Argos currently has a sign stating that due to ‘high demand’ stock of garden furniture is low.

Meanwhile, on John Lewis, it has 72 different garden furniture sets on its website. However, the vast majority – 60 items – are currently showing as out of stock.

A perfect storm of the pandemic, chaos at ports, warmer winters, increased demand from China, inflation and a rise in home renovations have all played a part in demand outstripping supply.

Sheds and garden furniture are low in stock in many stores as there has been high demand

Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘High demand and increased friction following exit from the EU has put pressure on supplies of garden furniture.’

‘Retailers are working hard to address and rectify the issue and will do everything they can to ensure consumers are not affected.’ 

James Whiteley, owner of White Stores and Nova, a garden furniture wholesale business, told This is Money: ‘We have seen a significant increase in sales. The whole industry has moved up a notch which has led to a shortage of supply, not just in the UK but globally.’

An Ikea spokesperson added: ‘Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an unprecedented demand for products that help people to live, work and play more comfortably from home. 

‘This was especially true as we went into lockdown last spring and customers were keen to make the most of the beautiful weather, with searches for Ikea sun loungers increasing by as much as 1,364 per cent year-on-year between March and May. 

‘Whilst our global supply chain – including the ports and goods terminals where our products are received – has been impacted by the cumulative effects of Covid-19, we are working hard to restore full availability across our product range ahead of our stores reopening and the warmer weather returning.’ 

Argos put a sign up on their website to say they are running out of stock on garden furniture

Argos put a sign up on their website to say they are running out of stock on garden furniture

Homebase is another retailer which has very low stock with only 3 out of 32 products available when it comes to garden furniture.

On the Range website, just 18 of 132 garden lounge sets were available whilst only 41 of 307 Patio sets were in stock when we checked on 15 March 2021.

Robert Dyas showed as having more sets available but many were down to their last numbers. 

Meanwhile, Dunelm’s website shows it currently has 97 garden sets available for delivery whilst 58 are out of stock. On Wayfair just 136 out of 1,119 garden sofa sets were available. 

A quick search on social media shows a number of people are frustrated with UK retailers for not being able to keep up stock:

One Twitter user said they were struggling to find any garden furniture in stock at present

One Twitter user said they were struggling to find any garden furniture in stock at present

Another customer took to Twitter to say their Homebase order has not been delivered

Another customer took to Twitter to say their Homebase order has not been delivered

One customer said all of the Range's garden furniture sets were sold out online

One customer said all of the Range’s garden furniture sets were sold out online

Demand is one of the biggest factors with 48 per cent of consumers intending to spend more on gardens and outside areas, according to data from Mintel.

Marco Amasanti, Mintel retail analyst, added: ‘Gardens and outdoor areas remain in the spotlight, as many housebound consumers look to extend the scope of their living spaces with the return of warmer weather. 

‘This timing mirrors that of last year, as sales surged in the run-up to the bumper Easter bank holiday weekend. 

‘Moving forwards, this focus will remain, even as restrictions begin to ease from later on in the month. 

‘However, as experienced, this huge demand will continue to heap pressure on stocks of garden furniture, heaters, lighting and outdoors dining while demand is also set to upscale, driving an appetite for home extensions, conservatories and garden rooms over the coming year.’

Experts believe smaller suppliers will be unfairly hit as they do not have the buying power of the bigger garden building manufacturers.  

‘There have been supply chain challenges’: Garden furniture firm, Nova, have seen orders soar 

James Whiteley is the founder of one of the UK's largest garden furniture retailers

James Whiteley is the founder of one of the UK’s largest garden furniture retailers

One of the UK’s largest garden furniture retailers, White Stores, said demand has picked up globally with the capacity for products overwhelmed by the number of orders.  

James Whiteley, said the shortage of products was largely due to the factories producing his products only having a certain amount of capacity. 

Despite demand picking up, the factories do not have the capacity to keep up with the orders and has been ‘overwhelmed’.

This coupled with firms not having enough physical storage to keep up with the increased number of orders has meant there have been several challenges.

However, James said it hasn’t all been bad: ‘We’ve fared better than most due to being one of the largest businesses in the industry. 

‘The bigger you are, the easier you fared as factories and productions value biggest customers more and they are taking precedent.

‘As a company we made the decision we would have to ship garden furniture as that’s all we sell. We negotiated with freight companies and whilst we didn’t pay the horrendous figures some of our competitors have, we still paid a serious premium on existing freight rates.

‘We haven’t had to put our prices up much and we suffered most of the increase costs. Just because freight rates go up, it doesn’t mean you should be selling your products for more money.’

He doesn’t see demand changing in the short term. 

‘Whilst more people will be looking to go on holiday as soon as they can there is also a school of thought that there could be a sea of change and more people will want to continue spending time at home and in their garden.’ 

Sheds could double in price

Meanwhile, Britons could pay up to 50 per cent more for their garden sheds due to a global shortage of timber.

Shed manufacturer Kybotech is warning consumers that prices will rocket as summer approaches with customers potentially left waiting months for their outdoor building.  

With regards to sheds in particular, warm winters in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, have also led to less trees being felled with muddy terrain being impossible for heavy vehicles to navigate. 

Kybotech, owner of BillyOh, has also seen sales of log cabins increase by 142 per cent over the last 12 months with an increased demand for outdoor living, working and storage space.   

Charles Walton, Kybotech founder, said: ‘We’re now in the second year of timber shortages and the impact is beginning to be felt.

‘We’ve had two consecutive warm winters which has meant considerably less timber being felled and resulting in a massive global shortage. Other factors have come into play too which have compounded the problem.

‘Combined they have the potential to push up timber prices by as much as 50 per cent and at some point a proportion of that cost will be passed on to the consumer.’

Container chaos: Furniture prices likely to rise 

When the pandemic hit, shipping companies transporting goods across globe didn’t believe there would be much demand for products and therefore decided to take a large number of their ships off the seas.  

However, this meant all containers that have come over to the UK now had few ships to take the empty containers back to China, where much garden furniture is built, creating a build up here and a shortage over there. 

As such, the shipping industry wanted to make sure all working ships were at full capacity. 

This led to increased pricing as there was still high demand, despite what shipping firms originally thought, and not enough ships in circulation to fulfill the demand. 

In some cases, prices to ship goods for retailers jumped from £850 to over £12,000 per container. This is Money has reported and shone a light on since problems began to surface last September. 

Walton warned the combined factors will mean prices inevitably rise. 

He said: ‘It won’t just be businesses like ours which will feel the impact of the shortage. Construction companies and small builders will struggle to get the softwood they need to peg out buildings. It will be felt across many sectors.

‘At some point and as the shortage worsens, we will be left with little choice but to increase our prices.

‘It’s impossible to put a date on when customers should expect that, but our advice is to buy while prices are still low. Everything from our playhouses to our log cabins will inevitably be hit with a new price tag over the next few months.

‘For now, we have the capability and resources to keep our prices as they are and we’re committed to doing that for as long as we can.’

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