I would say the biggest changes from pre-pandemic times to now would be how small cracks in the supply chain have been broken wide open. We used to see small disruptions to the supply and demand equilibrium here and there (for example hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the can liner industry for months due to the inability to get raw materials from the Gulf region to the manufacturing plants), but with the pandemic, we are reinventing ways for things to get delayed. We have had orders delayed weeks or even months by everything ranging from raw material shortages, corrugated and packaging shortages, lack of available freight haulers, backlogs at customs, government agencies like FEMA seizing product, counterfeit or defective product, product recalls and more!
Insights & Thoughts
Here’s my take on people hoarding supplies. These are unprecedented times. Supply for many essential items still hasn’t caught up with demand. We may be facing a shortage of all types of disposable gloves into 2022. I cannot fault a customer who has money and storage space for making purchasing decisions for 3, 6, 12 months, knowing that we can’t reliably predict when supply will be readily available again. I just hope customers are mindful that if their business is closed for an extended period of time, that they allow essential businesses that remain open to source those supplies.
Guernsey has had to branch out from our traditional offering, to include items that were not core SKUs to us as recently as March. Many of our existing vendors have all pivoted from areas where business is way down, like coffee and breakroom supplies, to areas that are in high demand, like hand sanitizer, barriers and PPE. We have forged new relationships within the industry with other COVID supply manufacturers. The scariest part of sourcing is the pop-up shops and brokers clearly trying to make a quick buck off the pandemic. Everyone seems to have a “good strong relationship with a factory in China that makes great product”. Weeding out the too good to be true scams from the reliable supply sources has been a constant battle.
As an essential business, Guernsey has remained open throughout the pandemic. We have a strong COVID protocol that includes screening, mask wearing, social distancing, remote working, barriers, signage and more. Our protocols have evolved several times based on the latest guidelines by federal, state and local agencies. The first step to sourcing necessary COVID supplies is to establish your company’s COVID protocols. From there you can figure out what supplies you need to keep your workplace healthy and safe. Your friendly Guernsey representative can help provide guidance and suggestions to assist you with creating your protocols and for what items your workplace needs.
If I could predict what was coming next and when, I would be on the fast track to early retirement. Some things I think I know are that gloves are going to face ongoing shortages and increasing prices for a long time. Supplies like hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray will likely become a core item in every office for several years, until the memory of how bad this pandemic has become starts to fade. Masks will continue to be in high demand until we can reach a level of inoculation as a society that will protect us from widespread outbreaks. The workplace itself will slowly return to pre-COVID staffing levels, but that return won’t occur until in-person learning for K-12 schools returns on a full-time basis.
Jake is a rec league basketball champion, video game enthusiast, and a Bruce Willis aficionado. When he is not dreaming of relaxing on a beach, Jake is leading his double life as a mild-mannered janitorial supply and breakroom category manager.