Patio furniture shortage a sign of a nation’s economic state, with delays for many goods

Image: Collected
People used to go to Valley View Farms to buy five tomato plants and end up with $5,000 worth of patio furniture.

This year is different. After a record burst of sales in March, the showroom floor is almost bereft of outdoor chairs, tables and chaises for people to buy.

The garden supply store in Baltimore’s suburbs has been waiting six months for a shipping container from Vietnam full of $100,000 worth of wicker and aluminum furniture. The container should have arrived in February, but it reached U.S. waters on June 3 and has just docked in Long Beach, California.

And half of the container already has been sold just by showing customers photographs.

“Everyone is just so far behind,” said John Hessler, 62, the store’s patio section manager. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Biden economy faces the unusual challenge of possibly being too strong for its own good. There is the paradox of the fastest growth in generations at more than 6% yet also persistent delays for anyone trying to buy furniture, autos and a wide mix of other goods.

It’s almost the mirror opposite of the recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-2009, which was marred by slow growth but also the near-instant delivery of almost every imaginable product.

What ultimately matters is that demand stay strong enough for companies to catch up and shorten the long waits.

“This is a very good problem for the economy to have,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist for PNC Financial Services. “You’re much better off having too much demand than too little because too little demand is the recipe for an extended recession.”

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