COVID Prompts Higher Appliance Replacements
As family homes, households are more crowded and busier than ever. This means more cooking and cleaning, which leads to higher wear and tear on dishwashers, washing machines, fridges, freezers, and other essential appliances. Given the caution with COVID-19 or the total fear of inviting strangers into a home, consumers are choosing to replace their devices rather than having them repaired in greater numbers than usual.
According to John Riddle, president and CEO of the 12-story Southern California chain Howard’s, traditionally two-thirds of the equipment business has been replaced. But that percentage has moved even more radically away from repair lately.
Scott Bekins, President Bekins; Chairman of the BrandSource Service Committee
“We’re seeing people use their devices much more frequently than ever before,” affirmed Scott Bekins, president of Western Michigan Bekins and chairman of the BrandSource Service Committee. “This often highlights existing issues that previously went unnoticed and increases consumer dissatisfaction with product performance.”
Initially, consumers may view delivery and repair similarly – a stranger walks into their home – until a retailer tells them the two scenarios are radically different. (See AHAM’s guest blog “Your Guide to Device Repair During COVID-19”)
Mark Patterson, VP Patterson’s Appliances
“Typically, repairs include two repairs to fix the product, one for diagnostic purposes and at least one for actual repair,” said Mark Patterson, vice president of BrandSource retailer East Tennessee Pattersons Home Appliances with five stores. “Home delivery and installation is usually a trip and done. We have also supplied products to consumers’ verandas or garages and they do the installation themselves. “
For the equipment dealer, the biggest problem of the pandemic is inventory management. Do consumers want more expensive models with new functions and better efficiency, or do they just want to spend as little as possible on a replacement? Can retailers get the inventory they need to meet local consumer needs? How long will this increased replacement trend last?
John Riddle, Howard’s President and CEO
Some retailers are reporting an increase in sales of smarter devices, which may be due to who is home. “When high school and college kids are at home, you have some kind of built-in IT staff to help mom and dad or grandma and grandpa understand how to use connected equipment,” says Riddle.
Another replacement circle is the DIY crowd, which “has found a new abundance of free time,” emphasizes Patterson. “That is, they start, continue, or finish remodeling the homes they live in and buy full kitchen suites.” For other retailers serving less well-heeled or less able consumers who are suddenly faced with a recession, “If you have entry-level replacement models in stock, can be competitively priced, and can offer fast delivery, you have the winning combination,” says Bekins.
Suzanne Carey-Fernandez, owner of Moderno Appliance & Furniture
An equipment retailer’s biggest problem may not be identifying customer replacement needs, but meeting them. Retailers report a shortage of stock as the availability of entry-level products for many models can last up to months. “Tracking inventory was critical when our typical turnaround time of two to three days for an out-of-inventory item was weeks and months,” said Suzanne Carey-Fernandez, owner of Moderno Appliance & Furniture in Lawrence, MA, a BrandSource distributor. “We focused on using our website to clearly identify in-stock items and show customers what to get quickly at a time when many basic items were unavailable.”
However, inventory problems can both create problems and create opportunities. “Consumers don’t want to wait a week to get a product they need and use every day,” Patterson says. “So it’s easy to make a model or two available to consumers when they have it in stock or can get it to them in time.”
How long will the exchange over repair continue to increase? Some retailers believe that equipment overuse will continue even after economies reopen. “As long as the pandemic is keeping families at home, there will be more and more large appliances, which means that older appliances will have to be replaced more often,” says Carey-Fernandez.
However, other retailers believe that the balance between replacing and repairing will soon be restored.
“I think this current way of buying equipment will change almost as quickly as it started when people went back to work and restaurants reopened,” Bekins believes. “I think manufacturers often feel this way because of their decision not to ramp up production of the products that are most in demand during this pandemic.”
See also: The quarantine effect on outdoor life
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