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The Great Appliance Shortage: Life Without a Dishwasher?

COVID-19 created yet another problem: A U.S. shortage of dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers. Freezers disappeared first when consumers started hoarding food.

WASHINGTON – Dishwashers, refrigerators, washers, dryers and other household appliances are low in stock nationwide, and some consumers now wait months for orders to be fulfilled. The backup is yet another problem blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the early pandemic days, consumers started hoarding food, putting a squeeze on freezer supplies. “We sold more freezers in two days than we did all last year,” Steve Sheinkopf of Boston-area Yale Appliance told NPR. “People were storing stuff because we thought this was the end of times. We needed food.”

But problems also appeared on the supply end. Factories scaled back production during the initial pandemic stages for employee safety and a belief that rising unemployment would lead to lower consumer demand. But instead, demand for appliances surged even as shipments of major appliances fell 7% year-to-year in June.

Another factor also came into play: People sheltering at home started using their current appliances more, and some broke down. In other cases, homeowners decided it was time for an upgrade.

Finally, a booming housing market means more new homeowners – and a higher demand for new appliances.

Appliance manufacturers warn of backlogs on several brands and models through the end of the year – and possibly even into 2021.

“I have never experienced a year where there were shortages like we’ve seen this year,” Sandy Tau, owner of Long Island, N.Y.-based AHC Appliances, told NPR. “We have freezers that are on back order since the end of March that have still not come in.”

Source: “Why It’s So Hard to Buy a New Refrigerator These Days,” NPR (Sept. 22, 2020)

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