It seems like everything from soft plastics to fishing reels are out of stock these days. And when you can find products in stock, they are marked up more than usual. What is the cause of these problems and when will we be able to find fishing gear with normal availability and prices?
I spoke to Shimano South East Regional Manager Robert Dufek at ICAST 2021 to understand what is causing the issues and when they will be fixed. According to Dufek, the hardware shortage in 2021 is caused by the perfect storm of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, rising shipping costs and a huge surge in demand.
The pandemic and accompanying government restrictions are causing shipping delays in Asia, where most fishing gear is made. “Some of the Chinese ports are operating at 40, 50 or 60 percent capacity,” Dufek said. “These ports are significantly larger than the Port of Los Angeles, which is the largest port in the United States. Thus, the containers arrive at the port, but cannot exit through the door.
The shipping cost of these containers also increased significantly. “A normal 40 cubic foot high container that Cost $4,000 to ship to California from China is now $14,000 to $18,000,” Dufek said. To make matters worse, bidding wars for containers and space on ships are common.
It’s not that companies like Shimano don’t make products or deliver those products to retailers. It’s that the products sell out in minutes and the demand exceeds the supply. “We’re making a lot more products than ever before in Shimano’s history,” Dufek said. Shimano has factories all over the world, including Japan, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and the United States, all of which are operational. “We are seeing record shipping figures every month. It’s not that we’re not shipping as many products as we did a year ago. We’re shipping more product, a lot more product,” Dufek said. According to a 2021 study by the Boating and Fishing Foundation, 55 million Americans went fishing last year and 4.4 million went fishing for the first time, an increase of 42%. The obvious solution to this increased participation is to speed up manufacturing, but expanding a manufacturing plant is no simple task.
“The other issue is that our manufacturing facilities are very large buildings. They are very complex and there are a lot of machines there,” Dufek said. “In order to expand the capabilities of this particular facility, it doesn’t happen in three months.” According to him, it would take about two years to expand their factories.
Read more : Where’s all that damn ammo?
So how long will these problems last? Unfortunately, this largely depends on factors beyond the manufacturer’s control. If the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by various countries are relaxed, ports and factories can operate with a full workforce. The last Bloomberg Supply Chain Update shows that the flow of products from Asia to America is improving, but congestion at US ports is getting worse. The other factor is how long the increase in demand will continue. The RBFF study found that 55% of people who tried fishing in 2020 will continue the activity in 2021, which could keep the demand for fish products high. In short, we don’t know what the rest of 2021 has in store for us, and the past year has taught us not to make predictions. One thing we know is that manufacturers like Shimano will do their best to provide you with the gear you need to hit the water.