Pandemic causing massive backlog of appliances

  • Marc Duguay, owner of S & S Appliance at 447 Main St. in Athol, said the pandemic has created a major backorder problem in the appliance industry.

  • S & S Appliance at 447 Main St. in Athol. STAFF PHOTO/GREG VINE

  • Like other appliance dealers, Manny's in Greenfield is reporting a long backlog in orders. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Susan DeAngelis, assistant manager at Manny's in Greenfield, right, helps Don Claine of Greenfield shop for a stove. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/8/2020 4:14:20 PM
Modified: 12/8/2020 4:14:12 PM

There is a warehouse in Franklin owned by about 110 independent appliance and electronic retailers and 160 storefronts across New England. And it has $60 million in backorders as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

A population largely working from home has generated a surge in customer orders, and manufacturers can’t keep up. Manny’s Appliances and S & S Appliance in Athol, two members of The New England Appliance & Electronics Group (NEAEG) that owns the 300,000-square-foot warehouse, are reporting that safety protocols have shut down or slowed production at factories in the United States and abroad.

Jim Bertier, manager of the Manny’s location in Greenfield, said American brands Whirlpool, GE and Bosh are playing massive games of catchup with their backorders. He said Whirlpool was manufacturing at 100% capacity when it reopened after being temporarily closed.

“They were looking at a 4.2 million-piece backlog to fulfill,” Bertier explained, “and they have not made a dent in that yet.”

He attributes the spike in demand to people spending more time at home, abstaining from traveling and dining out. He said he has been in the business 45 years and has never seen anything like this.

Bertier also said it seems the production of parts has been an issue with South Korean companies LG and Samsung. He said business has been booming in spite of the backlog, and most customers have been understanding of the situation. He also said Manny’s tries to inform people ahead of time of any disruptions in the supply chain.

Marc Duguay, who has owned S & S Appliance on Main Street in Athol for 17 years, said he sells products made “across the ocean” as well as those manufactured in the United States, Canada and Mexico. He said the Mexican factories shut down in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Plants that are open haven’t been able to catch up.

“I just got refrigerators that I ordered in March. There are still orders that I placed in May, June, that I haven’t received yet. A lot of the products that I purchased for (the state’s tax holiday in August) hasn’t even arrived,” he said. “I haven’t seen an upright freezer since February. People are staying home. They’re not going on vacation, and so they’re doing remodeling.”

Duguay said the furniture, lumber and paper products industries are in the same metaphorical boat. 

“It’s a sign of the times,” he said.

Duguay said NEAEG’s 300,000-square-foot warehouse currently holds few products, as demand is so high they gets distributed to a retailer or storefront immediately after they arrive.

“We’re all in the same boat. It’s like toilet paper,” he said. “It comes off of one truck and goes on another truck to be delivered to us.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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