Furniture Maxi is an online retailer specialising in top quality garden furniture with a taste for the latest and best designs at great prices. Despite facing shipping challenges and global supply chain disruption, Furniture Maxi are working collaboratively to make sure they deliver for customers.
We spoke to Arnold Bertasius of Furniture Maxi about the best ways for retailers to overcome shipping challenges.
1. Tell us about the challenges you have faced due to the global shipping crisis
Before the shipping crisis started, we were spending about $1,500 per container. Since then, the cost has been increasing steadily, to the point where we are now spending close to $14,000 per container. We have also started seeing equipment shortages, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Suez blockage, which continue to constrain capacity across both ocean and air.
What this means for us is that we’ve had our shipments delayed by at least 2 months several times this year. This has been particularly challenging as interest in our products has increased drastically during this time. We sell high quality garden furniture, which gained popularity as consumers sought to improve their outdoor spaces. During our peak season (Mar – Aug), our website purchases increased by 75% compared to the same period last year. While most customers have gotten used to a degree of delivery delay since the start of the pandemic, it has been difficult to meet product demand.
2. How are you overcoming these difficulties to deliver to customers?
Throughout these turbulent times, it has been important for us to get ahead of the curve. What this means practically is that we have been proactive in restocking our UK warehouses much earlier than usual. Due to national holidays both in the UK and China, shipping can take much longer in the early months of the year. Recent trends from our customer data indicate that the garden furniture peak season will start as early as February, so it is important that we have the products in stock to meet this demand.
Additionally, with the Chinese government applying pressure to large shipping companies, they are now willing to negotiate better prices for the containers. Hopefully, this will mean the prices go down to a more reasonable level in the near future.
Lastly, with so many things out of our control right now, we provide regular updates to all of our customers. We have built a landing page that is updated regularly with all relevant shipping crisis news. This page also encourages customers to purchase garden furniture before the start of the peak season, to avoid any disappointment if they sell out. This is why we are offering 20% off to help our customers save.
3. What are your top tips for businesses facing the same challenges?
We owe it to our customers to be honest and transparent, and let them know if there are any price increases linked to the shipping crisis or shortage of raw materials. Additionally, managing expectations around the delivery time of products has become more important than ever. Customers expect to receive products they have purchased within the timeline promised. It is the responsibility of businesses to inform customers on any changes or delays.
For some businesses, it works well to take deposits or do pre-orders on upcoming products. This is a great way to ensure customers can reserve high-demand products, and helps businesses place orders in advance.
4. What can we expect to see in the months to come?
As we have been getting used to hearing, it looks like things won’t “go back to normal” anytime soon. The shipping crisis is still in full force, and we are now dealing with a lack of HGV drivers in the UK too. With Black Friday and Christmas coming up, the pressure will be on businesses to meet high demands. Even looking ahead to 2022, factories in China will close for 6 weeks for the Chinese New Year holiday, which will create even more backlog and cause more delays.
This means it is more important than ever to plan ahead, and keep your customers informed.
Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail’s Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today’s ever-changing market.