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Ski gear ‘bottleneck’ due to supply chain


As local ski resorts open this month, global supply chain issues are creating problems for retailers trying to sell the latest gear around the country.

Due to factory closures, raw material shortages and shipments stalled in ports, outdoor-store shelves may look a little thin this year.

As President of Park City-based Snowsports Industries America Nick Sargent explains, the issues begin overseas.

“When you think about COVID, and you think about factories that had shut down to do the safe thing for their employees, that created a bottleneck. Most of these manufacturers who manufacture product – especially in Asia – were sitting on the sidelines waiting, wondering, ‘When are these facilities going to reopen? What type of delays are they going to have? and, How are they going to meet their deadlines of getting product to the manufacturer in time for the winter season?’”

He says with factories just reopening, especially many in Asia, a game of catch-up is underway that could last two or three years. Some in Thailand, Vietnam and Taipei just started back Monday. Some sites that have been closed produce ski materials like fiberglass, epoxy and titanal, a high-performance metal.

Even clothes are delayed. Cotton-based products are in short supply, which Sargent attributes to work-practice sanctions against China and tariffs on exports.

The next steps in the bottleneck after manufacturing are filling and delivering orders. Companies are bogged down with backlog and new demand.

At the delivery level, shipping containers from all over the world are waiting in ports unable to unload. That’s due to heavy traffic there and limited space for containers. Docks are also experiencing shortages of employees and containers.

The problems don’t end there, Sargent says. Even the trucking industry has a worker shortage, complicating the final step of getting product to distribution centers and, finally, into stores.

“The cascading effect is, lack of money means lack of staff, which means lack of product, which means lack of next year’s product. So, you keep pushing the ball forward. There is a breaking point, and for those smaller mom-and-pop shops, they’re going to have to make some really hard decisions. For some of these bigger retailers, chains, they will look to the manufacturers for some relief. They have more horsepower when they look to financial lenders and a larger track record, so they’re going to be okay. But, I’m really concerned about those smaller retailers out there that this world and this economy rely on.”

Adam Cole of Cole Sport in Park City says his store is receiving 80% to 100% of how many skis and boards he normally stocks for this time of year. Clothing shipments are also a bit behind.

“Everything is coming in kind of sporadically this fall. With hiring employees to do our receiving, everything’s just a little off. Things are coming slightly later than normal, but we are looking pretty much like a full-blown ski shop at this point. It really just depends what brands you’re carrying; some are going to be stuck on boats and others aren’t. I assume everyone’s in the same situation and will have 100% shipment on some brands and 0 to 50% on other brands.”

Cole expects a busy year at the resorts and heavy demand this holiday season as a result. He hopes to catch up on clothing shipments by then and says shelves might empty faster than normal this year.