Happy holidays, cuties! If you’ve started your holiday shopping (and guess what? You should DEFINITELY have started your holiday shopping!) or have ordered any furniture lately, you most certainly already know what I’m about to tell you: The shipping delays in the home industry are really out of control right now. And I’m sure you’ve heard who the culprit was: It’s that pesky global supply chain.
Speaking as the CEO and founder here at Kathy Kuo Home, I can tell you: The 2021 holiday shopping season is going to be the MOST logistically challenging year ever and shipping delays are showing no sign of letting up. To give you sense of what the luxury furniture shipping timeline usually looks like, we have THIS handy post…there’s already a certain amount of wait time involved when ordering premium furnishings, and the 2021 shipping backup is doing nothing to help with that. I don’t say this to dampen anyone’s holiday cheer…just the opposite in fact.
“At Kathy Kuo Home, we pride ourselves on world-class customer service–that means being 100 percent honest with our customers about why the supply chain is disrupting operations this season, and with how they (aka: YOU!) can realistically navigate it all and still have a wonderful holiday.”
Supply chain and shipping timeline challenges are touching every corner of the retail and home industries right now, and the causes and solutions aren’t always simple. To help you understand the key factors in WHY there are so many delays happening right now and WHAT you can do as you shop for everyone on your list this season, we’ve gathered insights from leaders on the KKH Customer Service, Business Development, and Design Services teams, as well as some home industry leaders.
So, What’s the Deal with the Supply Chain?
The first key factor to understand here is that, while we have been in the pandemic for almost two years, all of the shipping delays being experienced now are the result of a ripple effect stemming from the very earliest days of quarantine in spring 2020. Here’s a breakdown:
- At the start of the pandemic in 2020, many factories all over the world (responsible for a huge variety of products and goods) temporarily shut down or scaled back production.
- The scale-back was due to concerns for workers’ safety, but also due to an (incorrect) assumption that there would be much lower demand for many goods as consumers tightened their belts in an uncertain economic climate.
- The home industry specifically experienced a huge boom during 2020–this was good for revenue streams, but it posed a challenge when it came to demand far outpacing supply.
- The home industry boom created shortages for many types of raw materials, and therefor the price of materials went up and so did the price of shipping.
- In addition to a shortage in shipping containers (caused by a slowdown in manufacturing the containers themselves), there is now a huge backup in shipping routes and container ships literally can’t get slots at their ports on time.
- When we say something is “on the water,” it means that ports can’t be cleared to unload; this affects all the shippers across the country on every level (including with FedEx and UPS). There’s also a worker shortage both in terms of factory workers and shipping workers.
These system clogs are happening all over the world. Add backups and disruptions to container ship routes and the now-much-higher cost of shipping…and yeah, it’s a hot holiday mess. If only Santa could swoop in on his sleigh and do all of everyone’s deliveries for them! Here’s an example:
- You may have a factory in Vietnam that makes a special component of a lamp made in France.
- Even if the lamp factory increases production as much as they possibly can, it means nothing if the factory in Vietnam is operating at half capacity due to COVID safety procedures.
- Then, by the time the lamps can ship, the timeline is already behind schedule and there are so many more lamps to go out than usual that the normal shipping process can’t accommodate them all.
- Not to mention that the shortage in shipping containers means that maybe all of the lamps are finally ready to ship, but there’s no container to put them in.
- And finally, at this point the cost of the component from Vietnam has sky-rocketed and the factory in France now has to revaluate all of its financial structures, making it harder for them to hire all of the workers they need at a reasonable wages–so the cost of an individual lamp not only goes up, but it’s now taking even longer to make the lamp.
“Factories, suppliers, carriers, and everyone else involved in the industry isworking tirelessly to meet demands, despite all the obstacles 2020 and 2021 have brought on. The disruptions to the supply chain have lasting effectson these companies and the world’s expectation of Amazon-style delivery is not one that can be met by this industry.” –Meredith, Kathy Kuo Home Director of Customer Experience
“There are times where truly nothing can be done and our container is just stuck in a ship out on the water but overall, we are pivoting each time and really trying our best to be more resourceful about what we can do to get the furniture to our clients.” –Joanne Lee, Dowel Furniture, Co-Founder
A bedroom display from Kathy Kuo Home Southampton. Click to shop!
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Shopping Tip #1. Plan Ahead As Much As Possible
The most effective way to tackle the supply chain-related issues is to plan ahead as far as you can when it comes to your shopping decisions. This means you should get a jump on any ordering of smaller giftable items for the holidays now (not the second week in December–NOW!), and that you should adjust your expectations when it comes to larger or made-to-order furniture pieces.
“I would advise shoppers that if they don’t purchase items they may want for the holidays now there may be a chance they won’t be able to get it in the future. Don’t wait for items to arrive in stock because they may likely sell out before they even reach the warehouses.” —Erin, Kathy Kuo Home Senior Design Specialist
Planning ahead in terms of your furniture purchases doesn’t just apply to the holidays. If you anticipate buying any large-size or custom pieces in the year to come, it can only help you to plan accordingly. It might seem extreme, but it’s smart to start thinking about the outdoor items you may want for summer 2022, the holiday gifts in the pipeline for next Christmas, and definitely anything you may want customized at any point in the next 12-18 months.
One way to get ahead of delays is to try to shop from “Ready to Ship” assortments as much as possible right now. Not all furniture retailers call this out explicitly, but at KKH you can shop our collection of items that are currently Ready to Ship within 10-20 business days HERE!
Even when global shipping routes and supply chains aren’t in a state of disruption, planning and setting realistic expectations is always going to help you love where you live. If you have a plan of what you anticipate needing and buying, a top-tier customer service team (like the one we have here at KKH!) is going to be better equipped to help you.
“To make the wait tolerable, we leverage an incredible team of Design Specialists who will confirm the stock on any item, place your custom order, and will personally text you about your project. We never use chatbots, so every time you chat on-site, an experienced in-house Design Specialist is there to shop with you and answer any questions you might have. They also act like detectives who will go above and beyond to get accurate timelines for their customers, calling the warehouses and carriers to get every update!” —Meredith, Kathy Kuo Home Director of Customer Experience
A tabletop display from Kathy Kuo Home Southampton. Click to shop!
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#2. Take Note of Customer Service Quality
When making some tough shopping choices this holiday season–like when you’re trying to decide about ordering an item you love from Brand A but the shipping timeline is long, versus buying a sort of meh item from Brand B but that you think you might get a tiny bit sooner–one surefire way to tell if you’re going to have a positive or negative experience (and let me remind you, every single retailer, especially in the home space, is dealing with the same supply chain challenges) is to look at what a company’s customer service offerings and policies are.
“Being completely transparent is the best tactic and explaining to the client the current situations. It helps the client understand and be willing to wait on pieces.” –Nancy, Kathy Kuo Home Customer Success Manager
Not trying to toot my own horn…but I’m going to go ahead and toot my own horn! KKH has a truly outstanding Customer Service team. First of all, we value being honest and up-front with you about shipping and supply chain challenges. And beyond the sense of transparency, we are going to update you every single step of the way, we are going to help you find suitable alternatives from our assortment that might ship faster, and we are going to give you genuine human empathy (we never use chatbots or robocalls).
“Communication and follow up is the most important during these times. Customers don’t want to have to keep calling us monthly or weekly for updates on their items. They want to be informed and updated on their order status constantly. Having different forms of contact is also key. Customers see we reply to an email within 24 hours and answer their question quickly on chats, so they feel safe having placed their order with us.” –Erin, Kathy Kuo Home Senior Design Specialist
Bottom line: If a retailer isn’t willing to go the extra mile to guide you through this confusing time, and explain to you what to expect, how to navigate, and how to still end up with pieces for your home that you not only love but that are well-made and built to last…well, as the kids are saying online these days…that’s a #REDFLAG 🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩 🚩
Decor at Kathy Kuo Home Southampton. Click to shop!
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#3. Don’t Sleep on Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sales
Okay, so you might be thinking that the traditional post-Thanksgiving Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale period is going to be a bust this year. Not so fast! One liberating thing about having the knowledge that many big-ticket items will be delayed no matter what is that you can feel free to take advantage of all the amazing savings you can regardless of whether something will arrive by Christmas (spoiler alert in case you hadn’t caught on: If you order a sofa on Black Friday you will not have it by Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanza, or Boxing Day…or even Valentine’s Day most likely).
One thing I would really emphasize during this topsy-turvy time is that you shouldn’t turn away from making your furniture buying choices just because items will take longer to ship, and the same goes for investing in premium pieces that you know will have a super high level of craftsmanship and design.
In the same vein, across the furniture industry, there are going to be delays, so it really makes more sense than ever to actually invest in quality. “I think the main argument for us still stands that there is just less waste in investing in premium furniture,” says Joanne Lee, Dowel Furniture, Co-Founder. “If you buy something that lasts, you won’t have to throw it out in a few years and that is still true despite having to wait longer.”
“If you go the less expensive–and often lower quality route with furniture–you’ll end up wanting to replace it in a year or so anyway. Patience is really the name of the game and, personally, as someone who is a team member here at KKH but also has been a client, it is totally worth the wait!” —Tess, Kathy Kuo Home Business Development Coordinator
And the Black Friday and Cyber Monday periods this year are fantastic opportunities to find items you love at insane price points. Once you free yourself from thinking you “must” have something delivered by a certain date, it actually helps you gain clarity on what you really want out of your furniture pieces, and it will help you recognize the importance of quality and the value of taking advantage of good sales when they’re available!
Our swatch wall at Kathy Kuo Home Southampton. Click to shop!
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#4. Consider Creative Gift Ideas (Like Our Interior Design Packages & Gift Cards)
If you want to give a holiday gift that’s super-special and that won’t be subject to the whims of the global supply chain, my advice would be to get creative and give the gift of Interior Design! At KKH, our Design Services packages are always a great choice, but as a holiday gift (especially for that person you know who seems to have everything!) they’re a unique option and you can print the details of the package out and wrap them up in a pretty box under the tree! Ditto for our Kathy Kuo Home Gift Cards (available in amounts of your choosing).
“Design services also set companies apart during this time. Customers are inundated with beautiful design all the time through platforms like Instagram, but they often struggle with design execution. This is where design services come in. Designing a beautiful room for a photo is one thing, but cohesive design throughout a home that fits your family and your lifestyle is another thing altogether. By offering different design packages, we can help the customer who has a great design and just needs an update and also help the customer who wants to walk into a finished home.” —Meredith, Kathy Kuo Home Director of Customer Experience
We offer Per Room, Styling, and Custom Design Packages, and customers can also purchase by Refresh ($100, the perfect design solution for adding the final finishing touches to your space); Redesign ($500, great for a single room makeover, whether you have existing furniture or are starting from scratch); and Renovate (custom pricing, the ideal choice for new homes, renovations, and custom built or large scale design projects).
The comfiest spot at Kathy Kuo Home Southampton. Click to shop!
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#5. Shop for Gifts in Stores (Especially if You’re in the Hamptons–Wink, Wink)
Finally, for all of my Kuotes Cuties who may find themselves in the Hamptons this holiday season, this is my shameless announcement that I would LOVE to see your sweet shining faces in person at our flagship retail location Kathy Kuo Home Southampton!
At KKH Southampton, we have tons of lovely gift-worthy pieces stocked in store. For our larger furniture pieces that we have on display but might not stock inventory for, you will still have to go through the same ordering process as you would online, but we of course have team members on-site to guide you.
I know I’m a teensy bit biased, but I think our assortment in store for gifts (for literally everyone on your list) and entertaining essentials is the best in the whole Tri-State Area, and we’re also planning many cozy in-store activations, like shopping for good causes, offering hot cocoa and apple cider while you shop, and an in-store Santa. What could be more fun? Okay, I’m going to get off my supply chain soapbox now and leave you with a heartwarming note from our CS Queen Meredith:
“I hope these challenges might bring focus back to the things we celebrate during the holidays–health, family, and joy,–and help us take a step back from worrying about what is under the tree. Gifts will not come on time and nothing will be perfect but hopefully people take the time to enjoy the season and enjoy their gifts whenever they finally arrive!” —Meredith, Kathy Kuo Home Director of Customer Experience