Garden furniture shortages blamed on shipping costs, Brexit and the worsening Covid situation in India
People attempting to spruce up their gardens for a summer of socialising could find their hard work is hampered by persistent shortages in outdoor furniture, which show few signs of abating.
Whilst supply issues between the UK and the Far East have been partly to blame for lack of stock, combined with an increase in purchases because of the pandemic, the worsening coronavirus situation in India is also now contributing to significant shortages of garden items.
Retailers, both online and in store, are struggling to meet the demand for patio tables and chairs, outdoor sofas, parasols and rattan furniture whilst some customers fortunate enough to have snapped up sets have been warned their orders may now face delays.
The issue is affecting both big brands and independent retailers all hampered by global problems.
The Leisure & Outdoor Furniture Association said its members have been reporting issues since January and although hopeful for some respite, problems show few signs of disappearing.
The organisation estimates that on average deliveries are two months behind schedule with a lack of space on container ships and delays at ports both to blame, a situation not helped when the Ever Given blockage in the Suez Canal further delayed shipments.
Costs of shipping from China and Indonesia, says LOFA, are also seven to eight times higher than would normally be expected whilst post-Brexit administration and increased customs procedures is affecting the supply of products from mainland Europe.
In a statement it explained: "If everyone is staying at home rather than holidaying abroad this year and the sun starts to shine we are in for an even busier season than last year. Stock levels are already low and product is already sold before it arrives.
"Repeat orders are coming in thick and fast and some customers are accepting goods that will be arriving in the UK as late as September."
Alongside garden furniture, stock levels of other outdoor items and accessories are also now reducing because many items which come to the UK are handmade in India, which has seen production and exports disrupted as the country battles horrific rises in coronavirus infections.
Gina Hinde from LOFA said supplies of chimneas and fire pits were particularly badly affected and pointed to one member - company Kadai - which purchases all its stock from India including handcrafted firebowls, and outdoor cookwear.
The company, which prides itself in selling unique items made by artisan craftspeople has placed a message on its website forewarning customers of delays to stock because of the situation in India. The message adds: "Please bear with us during this time and thank you for your patience."
John Lewis, which sells furniture and accessories both in store and online, said like many others it too had been affected by global problems but was doing all it could to improve availability and was hopeful to have some stock of unavailable items in the 'next few weeks'.
A spokesman said: "The unprecedented demand for garden furniture which began in the lockdown is continuing and we like other retailers have been impacted by the global supply challenges caused by the pandemic.
"We apologise to customers who want to buy products which are currently out of stock. If a product is not showing as available we recommend customers sign up to be alerted when it comes back in stock, or use the pre-order option if it's available on that product."