Make no mistake about supply chains being impacted by COVID-19

Like just about everyone else in America, if not the world, I’ve been following news about COVID-19. And like just about everyone else, my life has been disrupted, even though I live in a small town in New Hampshire which at this point has no reported cases. Schools are closed. Restaurants are closed. Theaters are closed. Houses of worship are closed. Even some retail stores are closed. I joke that I’m self-quarantined, but the truth is, I work from home anyway, my wife is visiting family and, well, there’s nowhere to go.

While we’re just starting to see stories about layoffs and plans for factory closings, it’s appeared as if the supply chain has been chugging along. Sure, there’s been a run on food at grocery stores, but at least at the store where I regularly shop, they’re still getting deliveries and the shelves are pretty well stocked first thing in the morning. But at the end of the day yesterday, I got the first inkling about how logistics is being impacted.

Like lots of folks, I’m ordering more online than in the past. While I look like a chubby 64-year-old, I workout every day and have been looking for a reason to purchase a new elliptical machine and exercise bike. On Sunday, I found it, with an online ad from a nationally-known sporting goods chain advertising big discounts on both and a deal on shipping. I not only placed the order, I selected white glove delivery into the room where the equipment will be used and assembly. On Monday, I talked to the delivery company to confirm the details and the date.

Yesterday, Wednesday, around 5 PM, I got a call from the sporting goods chain: As of that morning, the delivery company I’d talked to on Monday was no longer willing to bring the equipment into the house or do the assembly. They would leave it in my garage or on my porch, but that’s as far as they’d go until this has passed.   Another anecdotal instance: I was talking to a supply chain executive at a well-known e-commerce company the other day who told me that they are shutting down their warehouses as of this Friday. If they’re not picking orders, they won’t be shipping.

I get it, which is the reason I didn’t make a stink about it. I’ll figure out a way to get it up the stairs and assembled. But, I have to believe that conversations like these are going on all around the country. Services that the companies we work for have offered as a competitive advantage, like white glove logistics, and that we as consumers have come to take for granted and are willing to pay for, are going to be put on pause.


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