Supply Challenges for Interior Designers Will Linger into Next Year

Forewarned is forearmed, it is said.  I prefer not be the bearer of bad news. But it is becoming increasingly clearer that supply chain issues are not likely to abate any time soon. Not for our industry, or any other. Recent projections from experts in a variety of industries indicate that it will be well into next year, and possibly even later, before current shipping bottlenecks and shortages of labor and goods will clear out and availability return to something like normal.

By now, you no doubt are familiar with the various causes underlying the delays and scarcities occurring across a wide range of products and materials.  In previous articles, I have shared some of the ways designers are trying to cope and keep their projects moving forward.  Switching to domestic suppliers proved to be a workable strategy at least for some goods early in the pandemic. But even domestic suppliers now are being stretched. They just can’t get the raw materials or parts they need from foreign suppliers.  The federal government is working with port authorities to try to speed up the distribution of goods that have already arrived in the U.S. from overseas.  However, a deficiency of trucks and jam-packed warehouses are hampering the effort.

Another trend to keep your eye on is inflation.  High demand from consumers and businesses for fewer goods, along with the rising cost of labor and shipping, is causing prices to rise. In some cases, they are rising at alarming rates.  As availability improves, prices should come down, but probably not to pre-pandemic levels.  Also, expect a lot of competition for goods as they first come back into the market.

Not all industries are equally affected by the current supply chain issues.  Where factories are located and how goods are shipped can make a big difference.  Some goods, such as appliances that require computer chips, likely will be backlogged longer than others, such as textiles, due to the current chip shortage.

Given this scenario, it is more important than ever to plan ahead. You should also explore multiple sources for goods and materials and keep your options open when obstacles occur.  Demand for design services does not appear to be slowing down, despite the challenges. So you need to have work-arounds to deliver projects successfully.  Discussing budgets and schedules with clients in advance and throughout the process is critical. The situation keeps changing from week to week, so keep updates frequent.  Improvements will come gradually.  With patience, smarts and flexibility, we will get through this.

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