Letter from the Vice President, Jim Greatorex: June 2021
on June 23, 2021
Summer is here and it looks to be a crazy next three months for home access contractors and manufacturers. We are seeing a lot of members have business pick up to pre-pandemic levels or better, but with it is coming price increases and an alarming amount of product being damaged in shipping.
The Good News
In April and May, we’re getting reports that the slight lulls in business in the first quarter of this year is a memory and that many members are seeing business come back to them at record-breaking rates! We are seeing a trifecta of events leading to the uptick.
- State programs are back in business and not only are they filling current needs, but many states have backlogs of business that are being bid as they open back up and loosen COVID-19 restrictions.
- The same is true with the VA, and most segments of their supply chain are coming back and orders are coming in at very close to early-2020 levels.
- We also are seeing a big jump in the private pay market, especially for seniors. This segment has been couped up and, in most cases, isolated for over a year. They have their life back now and are buying at an unprecedented rate in many segments, including home access. As the summer moves along and blue-collar workers come back to full force, most experts believe that segment will make a full rebound also.
The Bad News
Price variants for building materials in particular are going insanely crazy! One member told me that he has a job that he bid on that involves some concrete work. His original quote was at $3.87 per cubic foot. By the time the bid was awarded, the price had increased to over $28. Plywood prices have more than doubled!
We have seen manufactures having no choice but to raise their prices. Fortunately for LAH members, price increases for mobility are happening but at a much lower rate than what the building materials segment is seeing. We are also seeing manufacturers struggle with delays in overseas shipments, especially from China. It’s slower from all parts of the world, but the slow boat from China phrase has taken on new meaning. I had a member tell me he ordered a product from a company and was told eight weeks. So, after eight weeks he called and asked where the product was and was told it will be eight weeks again. He said that basically most companies have no idea when product will be in, and eight weeks is now the standard answer!
We are also hearing about an astounding amount of freight damage occurring. One member told me that he had a ramp order come in damaged not once or twice, but four TIMES in a row. A manufacturer told me that they designed a special curved stairway lift for a dealer who had a customer with a terminal illness and needed the product rushed. The stairlift was expedited and then destroyed in shipping, causing them to have disrupt their manufacturing to make it quickly again. A ramp manufacturer told me that they now spend half their time helping customers with freight claims.
We are not 100% certain as to why this happening, but most think that COVID-19 restrictions and manufacturing slowdowns caused the freight companies to have to cut back, and then when they did work, they had to take more time to make sure they socially distanced and met all protocols. So now they are short-staffed and trying to make up for things by filling their trucks with as much product as possible at the expense of proper spacing and stacking.
We do hear reports that experts feel that things will get better by end of the third quarter or sometime in the fourth quarter. So in the meantime, let’s remember that many of these issues are not the manufacturers fault, and clearly the freight companies are struggling mightily. Let’s show them some grace. They likely are just as frustrated as you are. Focus on what you can control and realize we are all in this together.
Installer Summit Review
Our Installer Summit was last week at Access to Independence in Ravenna, Ohio. Members were able to get in-person training from six different manufacturers in four days. Thanks very much to the manufacturers who gave the training and the members who attended. We hope you found value in having the training in a classroom and 9,000 square foot showroom where the product was set up already in house. Much thanks go out to the crew from Access to Independence and, of course, the “Host with the Most,” the leader of ATI, our great friend Vince Pelose.
Don’t Miss Heartland 2021 from Sept. 13-15!
This year is the 20th anniversary of our Heartland Conference and promises to be our most impactful and memorable conference ever! We have some great home access sessions planned and will have Installer Training from five manufacturers. The keynote speaker is an Emmy Award winner and, frankly, the best I have ever seen. We promise you the return on investment will be exceptional. In next month's note, we will preview some of our sessions for you. Click here to register.
Next month, we will announce some exciting news regarding our Select Member Program and a new finance partner!
We start summer with some challenges, but they are good challenges brought on by an uptick in demand for our services. Stay focused, give others some grace, and keeping doing the great work you do in the communities you serve.
Thanks for membership!
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