Previously, ordering baseball caps for local schools was pretty straightforward at Rego’s Sporting Goods in Perry Township.
Jason Perry, who operates the business started by his late father in the early 1990s, said the process has become much longer due to the impact of the pandemic on manufacturers, suppliers and shipping ports. .
Rego’s and other sporting goods stores and t-shirt companies in Stark and Summit counties have struggled with inventory shortages and postponed deliveries.
Perry has taken extra steps to fill orders and keep his customers informed – athletic coaches, athletic directors, nonprofit groups and others in the community.
“Basically now is a perfect storm to get everything going wrong on everyone’s side,” Perry said earlier this week.
Rego’s sporting goods are representative of other products in the clothing industry. Logan Sports and Beatty’s Sports in Louisville face the same challenges.
Logan Sports in North Canton has been in business for 47 years.
“We had a few issues, but nothing that we couldn’t get over,” said Andy Logan, store president.
Logan Sports relies on more than 10 suppliers. Customers include schools, businesses and the YMCA.
“Our customers are quite understanding,” said Logan. “If we don’t have a certain style or a certain color anymore (and) we change the color or the style, it cost us no business in that regard.”
Laura Hane, director of Beatty’s Sports in Louisville, said it “was definitely a challenge.”
“Especially before the holidays, it was hard to find certain specific clothing colors (and) plain t-shirts, solid hoodies, and basically everything was a challenge.”
“You may need to order from seven or eight different warehouses,” Hane added. “If he’s from Washington state, you wait a week for him to get here, which puts everything else aside.
“… We definitely had to extend our deadline (for when) we promise to get things done.”
“It was a nightmare”
Supply shortages have also affected t-shirt stores and sporting goods stores in Summit County.
“It was a nightmare,” said Shawn Ritchie, owner of Ritchie’s Sporting Goods in Tallmadge.
Ritchie orders his products from many wholesale clothing companies nationwide, such as SanMar and OneStop, as well as major brands such as Gildan, JerZees, Adidas and Nike. All of them have had problems filling orders over the past six months, he said.
Laurie Greer, owner of Ts-N-Things in Akron, recently had to buy some water blue Nevada T-shirts, having them arrive a few days later than she usually can get them. Soon after, she needed an extra-large orange safety t-shirt, but couldn’t find one after consulting with distributors across the country.
“We need a little sympathy here,” she said. “We try to work with people on the colors, but there’s not much we can do. “
The main reason for the shortages and delays is the supply chain, which is currently at full capacity, according to Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation.
“We are seeing issues with businesses, large and small, struggling to get their products to market,” he said. “It starts overseas with the foreign factories that have obviously been hit because of COVID and had staffing issues to be able to meet the consumer demand that we have seen.”
“It really has an impact on everyone at all levels: all industries, imports of all sizes and shapes, even manufacturers,” Gold said. “There isn’t just one piece that can fix everything, because it’s one bullet built together.”
US Customs to Blame?
Problems affect almost every step of the supply chain, including parts that take place in the United States
These problems include timely entry and exit of terminals and lack of equipment. For example, chassis, which are trailers specially designed to transfer containers from trucks between ports, terminals and warehouses, are rare.
When Hane of Beatty’s Sports asks suppliers about the delays, “they’re just telling us they’re waiting for things to come out of the ports so they can restock.”
Sometimes customers didn’t get exactly what they wanted, she said.
“There was a time when pants were out of stock,” Hane said of a local baseball team. “But we did get there on time …
“Or we convinced them to change color,” she added. “Everything seemed to be going pretty well.
If what Ritchie needs is available, it often takes weeks or months to arrive.
He recently received the last 13 jerseys from a local softball team, just in time for his last game of the season. Large league orders now go through four or five weeks rather than arriving all at once, making it increasingly difficult to keep track of orders that have been fulfilled.
After receiving orders with continually changing delivery dates, Ritchie called manufacturers to ask them the reason for the delays and was told US Customs was to blame.
“[The wholesalers] said they kept getting those dates from customs saying, “Okay, it looks like your stuff is going to be checked in around that date,” but they’re not hitting the dates, “Ritchie said. “It was a huge ripple effect. “
Michael Niezgoda, a public affairs official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the agency “is essential and has remained complete throughout COVID-19.”
“In addition, business operations have not changed and are thoroughly inspected,” he said.
Modern technology makes problems less intimidating, said Logan, of Logan Sports in County Stark.
Frequent online inventory checks are now part of the routine.
“Maybe a few more clicks every now and then to get (orders) … but 20 years ago you would have had to talk to someone on the phone, and they would have to research,” he said. -he explains.
Now, “we can check inventory immediately… and can tell customers if (suppliers) are limited on (particular items) and if we need to order quickly.”
Perry, of Rego’s Sporting Goods, said the problems started in the fall.
“It started with hoodies and sweatshirts and stuff like that, and it was all colored,” he said of the shortages.
It is estimated that $ 20,000 to $ 30,000 was spent on inventory “just to allow us to do the best we could,” Perry said.
Suppliers might not have red and other colors available for the shirts until next year, he said. Staff shortages affected warehouse hours and fabric supplies, Perry noted.
“It’s a juggling game,” he said. “Someone might want this manufacturer; we may need to replace it with another manufacturer; everything is doable – it’s just much more difficult. “
T-shirt and sweatshirt orders are important to local fundraisers, he noted.
“These groups weren’t able to fundraise last year (with car washes and door-to-door sales) so a lot of them have relied on the online fundraising that we do. “said Perry.
Perry also praised his customers for their patience and understanding.
“I feel bad for everyone involved because it’s difficult, and nobody knows when it’s going to come back in terms of inventory,” he said.
Canton South High School baseball coach Trent McIlvain said Perry’s efforts kept the ordering issues to a minimum.
“He really makes it easy and he communicates well,” said McIlvain. “… We ordered tops for delivery delays, but I would say overall the impact was not that great for us.
“I think sometimes you just have to be understanding,” he added.
The biggest delays include a football-related order from Perry Township, Perry said. A delivery date has been pushed back from July to October.
“It could go all the way to 2022 with all kinds of different things,” he said, noting that baseball caps are often scarce.
While on vacation, Perry called the coach. “I gave him options and told him to plan for options A, B, C and D.”
By exchanging emails, the coach and the commercial operator opted for one of the alternatives.
“Option B was good,” Perry said.
Contact Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected]
On Twitter @ebalintREP
Tawney Beans, editor at Akron Beacon Journal, contributed to this report