Empty shelves annoy customers: Ikea’s contingency plans don’t work

Whether online or in-store: Ikea customers often have to wait a long time for the products they want. The global supply crisis hits the furniture giant hard, although the company is trying to counteract it. But the jam-packed container ships take forever before they reach their destination.

“It would be great if the Billy could finally be bought again at a depth of 40 cm, not available for many weeks. Why Ikea?” Asks the customer Bianca on Ikea’s German Facebook page. Bianca received the following answer to her question from the Swedish furniture company: “The past year of the pandemic presented us all with challenges that we overcame together with distance, consideration and mutual support. However, the situation has also led to an imbalance in the global supply of goods, which also affects Ikea. With extraordinary measures we will do everything to ensure the availability of your favorite Ikea products at the usual low prices – online and in our Ikea furniture stores. ”

The head of logistics at Ikea Denmark explains what Ikea understands by “extraordinary measures”. “We have tried to build a rail link from Asia to Europe so that we can use trains for transport,” Peter Langskov told Euronews. “We also tried to lease container ships and bought empty ships. But they have to be brought back and that’s a problem.”

But not only the 40s Billys are in short supply at Ikea. The popular fabric shark Blahaj is also not available, as customer Katja notes on Facebook. She worries that the stuffed shark will disappear completely from the range. But the Ikea team can reassure them: “At the moment there are no plans to remove the Blahaj from the Ikea range. Due to the currently difficult transport situation, there were delivery bottlenecks for the popular Blahaj soft toy in Great Britain, for example. As soon as the situation improved , the product will be back in the regular range. ”

Delays in loading and unloading the container ships

The “transport situation” – this means above all the shipping of goods that are transported from Asia to Europe. Even before Corona, shipping, of all things, was in a crisis for years. For example, at times only 50 to 200 dollars were paid for a container from Asia to South America. Thousands of dollars are now being called for the transport of a container. “Such strong fluctuations are bad for business. Nobody really needs them,” explains Hapag-Lloyd boss Rolf Habben Jansen. Hapag-Lloyd is the fifth largest container shipping company in the world and recently posted a half-year result of 2.7 billion euros in the group, while the Danish world market leader Maersk even reported a tenfold increase in half-year profit to a good 5.5 billion euros.

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The reason for the massive leaps in profits is a significantly increased demand during the corona pandemic with simultaneously scarce transport capacities, which are also lower than usual due to pandemic-related restrictions. If you usually need six ships for a liner service from the Far East to the USA, there are now eight to nine, said Habben Jansen: “The rates go up, that’s the market.” The head of the shipping company is particularly concerned about the delays in loading and unloading the container ships at the terminals: “If you first have to wait eight days in Korea, then a week in China and a few more days in Singapore – and then you have to wait eight days once again does not go further before Rotterdam, yes, then of course you never get the ship back in time. ” It is inevitable that you have to skip one or the other port or skip an entire trip.

The Association of German Shipowners (VDR) knows the problem. The liner shipping companies are doing everything in their power, said the executive member of the VDR Presidium, Ralf Nagel. “But when ports are clogged and customers’ containers are on the move for much longer, they are ultimately powerless.” Only a few weeks ago there was a mega-ship jam off Los Angeles, around 70 container ships had to wait to be processed.

Shipping company boss Habben Jansen hopes that the situation will calm down again until after the Chinese New Year celebrations on February 1, 2022. Until then, even Ikea customers will probably have to put up with the fact that the desired products are not always in stock. But the joy will be all the greater when the stuffed shark Blahaj finds its place in a 40s Billy.

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