Local appliance stores have plenty of demand, but not much stock

SOMERSET – Demand is fine, but it can be difficult without a supply.

This is the paradox for local white goods retailers – appliances like washing machines and dishwashers – who, since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, have struggled to strike a balance between selling their goods and waiting for suppliers to replenish their inventory.

“The demand has just been huge and the supply is falling, and that is not a good combination,” said Leah MacLeod, owner of the Iz Schwartz Appliance on Slade’s Ferry Avenue in Somerset.

It is one of the few independent retail stores in the greater Fall River area.

Grandfather Isaac Schwartz opened it in 1979. MacLeod became the sole owner 12 years ago after the death of her father, Barry, who had done business with his father in the 1980s.

Iz Schwartz Appliance and other stores of this type never had to close completely as they were classified by the state as “material companies”.

However, MacLeod said she would have to close her showroom from March to May 1st. During this time, she focused on selling online.

And she says customers couldn’t come into the building until June 1 without an appointment.

According to MacLeod, the COVID-19 coronavirus has impacted the ability of domestic and overseas manufacturers to keep pace with demand for goods for the past nearly five months.

Some of these suppliers, she notes, temporarily closed their manufacturing facilities as soon as the severity of the pandemic became apparent.

Manufacturers across the board, she said, have continued to limit their workforce significantly to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Entry-level home appliance models were the first to sell out. Before the pandemic lifted its ugly head in March, Iz Schwartz Appliance could buy a no-frills washing machine for about $ 400.

“These have been ordered since April,” said the 42-year-old MacLeod.

The next cheapest washing machine in stock recently sold for $ 535 pretax.

MacLeod got some good news from a retailer this week: She says a washing machine she sells for $ 499 is back in stock, which she called “exciting”.

But even now, the inventory in her warehouse is 40 to 50 percent of what it was before March, she said.

MacLeod said she doesn’t make deposits for items that she doesn’t have a delivery date for. But she says she is in better shape than some large chain stores in terms of inventory.

“We have some customers who can’t get a washing machine or refrigerator in a big store,” she said.

A request for an interview for this story to the corporate headquarters of The Home Depot, which has stores in Somerset and North Dartmouth, went unanswered.

The coronavirus has also kept repair workers busy as apartment building owners with older models of equipment in need of repair wait their turn.

Justine Clark, the current manager of the Fall River Laundromax laundromat, said she spoke to some new customers who said they had not found a repairman available to repair their old washing machines.

The business in the laundromat on Rhode Island Avenue “went very well”.

Online visitors to the Stan & Paul retail store website on State Road in Dartmouth will see the following message:

“We’re still in business! Stock is critical and we are working hard to replenish our showroom. “

Richard Marashio, who has run the 64-year-old company with his brother and sister for 20 years, said he sold goods exclusively online from late March until his showroom reopened on June 3.

“Business has been very good this year, but we just can’t get the products.” he said.

Marashio said once the news of the pandemic began to spread, both refrigerators and large freezers had picked up.

He said customers fearing the worst were preparing to store meat and other foods that can be thawed at a later date.

Most of what Marashio says he sells is now made to order with no final arrival date.

“Manufacturers are way behind,” he said.

Marashio suggests that the demand for large appliances could be due to a combination of people being forced to work from home, cancel vacation plans, or become bored.

Robert Desrosiers of Fall River, sole owner of Bob’s Appliance Repair, says he’s been repairing equipment for 48 years.

Desrosiers says his workload dropped from 60 to 70 hours to just 15 hours a week from early March through most of April.

“People were scared to call,” he said.

But when the restaurants reopened, Desrosiers, 65, said he received calls to fix commercial freezers and refrigerators that had been idle for too long.

“Everyone held back,” he said until the last minute.

And during the recent heatwave, Desrosiers said he was busy fixing freezers and central air conditioning, not just in restaurants with dining rooms but also in pizzerias and package stores.

Desrosiers says getting parts wasn’t a problem and that utilities kept up with demand. It’s all about how much work he wants to do at this point in his long career.

Once in May, he said, half a dozen customers called to ask where they could buy either a freezer or a commercial freezer.

Desrosier said they wanted to be able to supply themselves with food in case there was another wave of the pandemic after the summer.

“They said there wasn’t a store in the area that had one,” he said.

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