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How to Buy Appliances During a Supply Crisis

Steve Sheinkopf  |  October 12, 2021  |  11 Min. Read

Appliances  |  Appliance Service  |  Appliance Delivery

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You have heard horror stories about appliances and other household products not being available for months on end.

I originally wrote this article in September 2020, when appliance shipments started to become a problem.

I never expected them to be worse than they are now.

In 2021, instead of waiting 3-6 months, you could be waiting for 12-14 months.

It's that bad.

In this article, we'll first cover the extent of the issue.

Then we'll share some possible solutions so you can finish your kitchen remodel on time or replace your old appliance quickly.

First, let me share two stories that illustrate the problem with one success story.

The Problem With Bosch

bosch-kitchen-at-yale-appliance-in-hanover-2Bosch Kitchen Appliances at Yale Appliance in Hanover

 

One of the most likable people in this industry is Barry Reef, the head of Bosch for New England.

His area is one of the best for Bosch, so he is also influential in his company.

He is a good guy to know, but I like him on a personal level. We have lunch occasionally.

He was insistent about lunch this time.

So as we were eating, he sprung the news.

"We can only allocate 25-50% of our normal stock."

My reply: "You mean 25-50% of the 25-50% of the previous allocation?"

"Yes," he said.

In summary, it's possible you won't be able to buy a Bosch dishwasher until they catch up with their backlog.

A dishwasher is a common item, not a specialty appliance like a professional range or steam oven.

A Success Story

Two to three days a week, I drop my daughter off at school in Brookline. It's a nice 20-minute ride from my home in Boston.

We are greeted by the Assistant Principal every day.

So, one-day last year, she said, "You sell appliances. What're the best brands?"

I told her there are no best brands, only brands that may be best for using them.

She was in the preliminary stages, so we talked about 5-10 minutes every drop-off.

I started to warn her about delays and price increases, especially the last one on October 1.

Last week, she said she bought the appliances.

I was waiting for the "Can you help me get them sooner?" It is something I hear daily.

If you need an appliance quickly, I will tell you some unorthodox strategies later in the article.

Anyway, she was happy.

She hadn't hired the contractor, so it didn't bother her the Wolf stove wasn't available until May 26 of 2022.

That's an 8-month lead time.

It also didn't bother her that the Miele dishwasher wasn't available until March 30, 2022, a 6-month lead time.

That's what success looks like post-pandemic.

But not the only way.

Let's look at the problem.

Short on time? Get our free Appliance Buying GuideLearn More

Problems in Appliance Supply Chains in 2021

Yale-Appliance-Warehouse-Campanelli---Stoughton (1)Yale Appliance Warehouse

 

When I originally wrote this article, it addressed the COVID-19 reality last year.

The pandemic hit the supply chain at different times, causing warehouses and factories to shut down.

Then they had to be reopened with social distancing guidelines causing efficiency problems.

On top of that, demand skyrocketed as many people stayed home and focused on their homes.

So, you had exploding demand and a shaky supply chain.

In 2021, it became much worse.

Component Issues

You probably didn't know that most of the insulation for refrigerators was manufactured in Dallas, Texas.

Don't feel bad. Neither did I. Then again, it has never been a topic of conversation in the 36 years I have been at Yale.

However, the main factories for insulation were damaged during the freak ice storms last winter.

Computer Chips

As I write this, the industry and world are experiencing a chronic shortage of computer chips. Demand for computer chips has exploded in our industry and for automobiles as well.

There is a worldwide shortage of chips everywhere.

This is on top of Port issues. Many appliances and components are imported through the Port of Los Angeles, which has a chronic backlog.

This means that your appliance or the components to make your appliance could very well be sitting offshore waiting to be unloaded.

Appliance Store Problems

empty-warehouseEmpty Warehouse With No Inventory

 

Added to supply problems is the nature of the unique structure of the appliance supply chain.

Many appliance stores or dealers operate on a just-in-time inventory basis, meaning you buy the appliance, then they pick it up locally and deliver it to you.

Given there is no local inventory anywhere, an appliance dealer now has a 6-12 month supply issue.

Many local and regional stores will have a hard time surviving this.

Appliance stores also need aggressive purchasing and tons of warehousing along with certain flexibility across many brands.

That can't be built quickly.

Warehousing is also at a chronic shortage in New England. You cannot lease a warehouse in our area.

We will be building one. Hopefully, it will be opened in 2022.

In just ten years, the cost is almost six times more than our original warehouse on a per square foot basis.

Many dealers do not have warehouses or minimal space.

Where will they place all these appliances when they show up all at once?

Appliance Promotions

2020 and 2021 have been the worst two years for appliance promotions. Prices for certain products have increased 20-25%.

You should still consider promotions because it's the only time when prices haven't increased.

It's also the last time to buy an appliance before its price increases.

Appliance Critical Supply Problems By Product Category

French-door-counter-depth-refrigerators-at-yale-appliance-in-hanoverFrench Door Refrigerators at Yale Appliance in Hanover

 

While we see supply shortages in nearly every category, we are seeing these categories getting hit the worst.

Outdoor Grills: People are cooking more at home, and after months of being indoors, they just want to be outside. Grills are the perfect opportunity to be outside and still be productive.

Full-depth 36-Inch refrigeration, Top Mount Refrigeration, and 33-Inch Refrigeration: People were shopping for food in bulk due to the pandemic.

Hence, a lack of supply in freezers, secondary refrigerators, or larger refrigerators.

Laundry All Categories: Washers and dryers are a special case.

Against faltering supply, there is skyrocketing demand. They are the third most popular product at Yale after grills and vacuums.

Appliance Supply Problems By Manufacturer

Beko

Average lead times are 1-2 Months for:

  • Dishwashers
  • Refrigerators
BlueStar

Average lead times are 2-4 Months for:

  • Ranges
  • Refrigerator
Bosch

Average lead times are 2-6 Months for:

  • Dishwashers
  • Over-the-Range Microwaves
  • Wall Ovens
GE

Average lead times are 4-6 Months for:

  • Refrigeration
  • Over-the-Range Microwaves
  • Any less expensive appliance
LG

Average lead times are 1-2 Months for:

  • Refrigeration
  • Stoves
Lynx
  • All Grills
Miele

Average lead times are 8-14 Months for:

  • Dishwashers
  • Refrigerators
Samsung

Samsung has been non-existent as a supply for almost a year.

  • All Products
Speed Queen

Average lead times are 2-3 Months for:

  • Laundry
Sub-Zero & Wolf

Average lead times are 8-14 Months for:

  • Pro Ranges
  • All refrigerators
Thermador

Average lead times are 6-8 Months for:

  • All products
True

Average lead times are 2-4 Months for:

  • Refrigerators
Whirlpool Corp.

Average lead times are 6-10 Months for:

  • Refrigeration
  • Electric Ranges
  • Laundry

Repairing Your Old Appliance

Yale-Appliance-Service-TechYale Appliance Service Technician Repairing a Wall Oven

 

Repairing your old appliance could be an excellent option and normally is my recommendation - except now.

Any parts sent to the repair channel are now placed in the limited amount of new products.

That is a huge issue.

We have so many loaner appliances in the field. Let's say a few new products didn't work for whatever reason.

We can't fix them without parts, and we can't replace them without an inventory of new products.

So, we deliver loaners people can use in the interim.

How to Buy Appliances During a Supply Crisis

Planning a Full Kitchen if You're Just Getting Started

Let's take the Assistant Principal earlier in the post as an example.

If you plan far enough ahead, then it won't matter.

Placing your appliance order one year before you need it will almost guarantee delivery (then again, I said almost).

You would place your order one year beforehand on a holiday like Black Friday or Presidents' Day for the best deal in a perfect world.

Planning a Kitchen You Hope to Finish in 0 to 6 Months

Well, you probably will not be able to buy a Miele or Bosch dishwasher.

But brand loyalty will be a problem because every brand has a problem.

Look at the best available choices like Beko, LG, GE, and KitchenAid. They are among the most reliable appliance brands with great features, and they're available.

Below are our service rates for each major category of appliances.

To find these service rates, we divided the products our service team repaired by the products we sold from December 2019 to November 2020.

Dishwasher Reliability
  Service Ratio
Blomberg 0%
LG 1.9%
Whirlpool 2.1%
Thermador 7.6%
Beko 7.67%
Miele 8.2%
GE Profile 10.5%
Samsung 10.6%
JennAir 11.0%
KitchenAid 11.0%
Asko 11.6%
Bosch  12.8%
Bosch Benchmark 18.4%
Café Appliances 18.8%
GE Appliances 19.5%
Fisher & Paykel 27.8%
Average 11.2%

Each brand represented has a minimum of 50 units sold and a total sample of over 10,000 pieces.

Front Load Washer Reliability
  Service Rate
Whirlpool 1.85%
Samsung 2.90%
LG Electronics 4.14%
GE Appliances 8.61%
Maytag 17.61%
Total 6.18%

Based on a minimum of 300 washers sold from December 2019 to November 2020.

Gas Range Reliability
  Service Ratio
KitchenAid 1.75%
Whirlpool 2.14%
Beko Appliance 3.91%
Bosch 3.95%
Samsung 4.33%
JennAir 12.20%
Grand Total 4.62%

These figures are based on a minimum of 100 ranges sold with over 2400 total pieces.

Electric Range Reliability
  Service Ratio
Whirlpool 0.59%
Samsung 2.38%
Bosch 4.76%
GE  7.41%
Beko  8.25%
KitchenAid 8.54%
Grand Total 3.06%

These figures are based on a minimum of 90 ranges sold and a sample of over 1900 total pieces.

Don't be brand loyal unless you have plenty of time to wait.

Instead, be open to different brands.

Pick the features you want the most, and then buy that brand.

Be open to 2-3 brands and don't focus on any one brand or model.

If You Need an Appliance Now

First of all, you should never be shut out if you are open to every brand. However, here are a few tips for buying the right appliances.

1. Ask for a Different Handle Style

Styles-of-Bosch-DishwashersDifferent Styles of Bosch Dishwashers

 

Bosch has five styles of dishwashers, Beko has three, Miele has three. Perhaps they have a pocket handle, towel handle, or regular handle in stock. It's worth the ask.

Many stores don't know exactly what they have in inventory.

2. Ask for a Different Model

Bosch has 54 models available. That's down from 100 from 2019. If you are looking for a particular model, ask if they have something similar in the same series.

That's true with almost every manufacturer. Look at the series and take any model - bonus points for asking for any style of handle.

3. Outlet

Yale-outlet_1Yale Appliance Outlet in Boston

 

I am not a fan of damaged products unless it's just cosmetic. However, every day, a refrigerator doesn't fit, or it has the wrong swing.

Laundry is a problem as well. Front loads are larger than top loads and sometimes don't fit.

You want to ask if any of that product has been returned due to not fitting.

4. Customer Cancellations

You have to believe people have canceled orders, given the challenge construction has been. If you call around enough, you might find a few appliances as well.

Leave your number with several stores and have them call you with an outlet or cancellation.

Now let's look at some other brands.

Should You Buy Off-Brand Appliances?

Probably not, unless they have decent reviews or can be repaired easily.

In some cases, they could be a useful purchase.

Do your research first.

There are good opportunities to buy decent appliances at more competitive prices, especially if the major brands are out of stock.

The following are some interesting brands to consider.

Beko

beko-pro-rangesBeko Kitchen Appliances

 

They load a dishwasher with features for $549. Their best is 39 dB with special intense sprays for heavily soiled dishes, Wi-Fi, and a ton of cycles.

It even sends negative ions to counteract the positive ions of odors, leaving your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Their refrigerators are modestly priced and won our Project Produce competition keeping food fresh the longest.

Their compact laundry is the most reliable so far this year.

Signature Kitchen Suite (SKS)

Signature-Kitchen-Suite-Kitchen-Package-at-Yale-Appliance-in-HanoverSignature Kitchen Suite Appliances at Yale Appliance in Hanover

 

SKS is the premium line of LG.

Their ranges feature 23,000 BTU output, induction, and a sous vide water bath on the cooktop. Their columns are the largest available and have stainless interiors and Wi-Fi.

True

true-kitchen-1True Refrigeration

 

Their refrigerators are available in 10 colors with six accents and are all stainless.

True is the largest supplier of commercial refrigeration in the world based out of St Louis. (I know they are from St Louis, I had to buy them clam chowder when they won The Cup).

How to Start Your Kitchen Project Without Cabinets

We had a webinar on how to start a kitchen project with appliances.

The important appliances to remember are a sink (not an appliance but used the most), a range, whether stovetop or full stove, and a dishwasher, and the dishwasher.

The so-called "kitchen triangle" is the most used appliance.

You stir your soup frequently. Going to your refrigerator is not as urgent.

Have any doubts? Tape or chalk off the area to see what works.

Most Common Appliance Sizes

I added this section so you can start planning now. Appliances should be an easy purchase, yet they are made to seem hard.

Appliances fit cabinets, not the other way around.

You will never see a 22-inch dishwasher or 26-inch stove because those cabinets don't exist.

Refrigerators

french-door-counter-depth-refrigeratiion-learning-centerRefrigeration at Yale Appliance in Hanover

 

Thirty-six inches is the most common size.

Other sizes include 18, 24, 30, 42, and 48 inches. Forty-two and 48 inches are the larger professional refrigerators. Eighteen inches is for integrated types and is not that common.

Twenty-four and 30-inch refrigerators are apartment-sized.

Dishwashers

dishwashers-at-yale-appliance-in-hanoverDishwashers at Yale Appliance in Hanover

 

Twenty-four inches is by far the most common. Eighteen inches is another available size.

Stoves

slide-in-and-front-control-range-displayGas Ranges at Yale Appliance in Hanover

 

Thirty inches is again the most common. Twenty and 24 inches are apartment sizes. Thirty-six, 48, and 60 are the larger sizes, typically for professional ranges.

Microwave Drawers

Sharp-microwave-drawers-at-yale-appliance-in-hanoverMicrowave Drawers at Yale Appliance in Hanover

 

Microwave drawers are available in 24 and 30 inches exclusively.

Beverage Centers, Wine Coolers, and Under Counter Refrigerators

True-Undercounter-RefrigeratorsUndercounter Refrigeration at Yale Appliance in Hanover

 

Undercounter refrigeration is usually fifteen and 24 inches, with 24 inches being the most popular size.

We cover this topic extensively in our Buying Guides. Check out the webinar on How to Start Your Kitchen Project With Appliances by clicking here.

Appliance Prices

In a scarce market, you would think prices will skyrocket. And you would be right this year.

Prices have been up 20-25% since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, these 10-35% promotions around July 4, Labor Day, and Black Friday have not happened either, as we said.

They may promote, but in many cases, they will not have the product to deliver. Sales and marketing don't talk in many larger companies.

Many of the lower-priced products will be scarce.

For example, top mount refrigerators are tough to find because manufacturers place compressors in more expensive French door and side-by-side refrigerator styles.

It's the same compressor, but there is more revenue on the more expensive item.

Have questions? Click here to check out our Learning Center.

Buying Appliances Online

online-shopping

By the way, just because you added that French door refrigerator to the cart online doesn't mean it's in stock.

If you buy online, call to schedule immediately. If you cannot schedule, then cancel it before being hit with a restocking charge.

Read reviews on each store before entering your card to buy an item.

Use that logic to buy anything online. It is a huge problem.

Many stores are "overly optimistic "when quoting delivery times. Don't be fooled.

Key Takeaways

Start the process now or a year before you need your kitchen. Then you should be OK.

Like we said earlier, don't be brand loyal. Be feature loyal.

Buy the features you want from any reliable, available brand. If Samsung or Maytag don't have laundry units available, buy comparable GE, Whirlpool, or LG models.

Off-brands have the potential to save you money.

They usually have inventory because they are generally not in-demand items.

You may end up with a whole different package of brands. Instead of a Samsung or LG kitchen, you may end up with KitchenAid or GE.

If you pick the best features for how you live and use your appliances, you will not notice much difference.

Ask your dealer for different models, handles, returns, or cancelations.

One last comment: Just because that internet site accepted your credit card on an "in stock" item doesn't mean it will be delivered.

Call to confirm and be careful as always.

You can do this.

It's much harder than in 2019 or even last year, but you can still buy an appliance or kitchen to match your lifestyle.

Additional Resources

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Steve Sheinkopf

Steve is the third-generation CEO of Yale and a lifelong Bostonian. He currently resides in Boston, one mile from where he was born. Despite being one of the worst goalies of all time, he is a huge hockey fan of college hockey and the Boston Bruins. The love of his life is his daughter Sophie.

Steve has also been featured in numerous publications such as the New York Times, Consumer Reports, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg Radio, and Entrepreneur, for his knowledge of how to buy appliances and appliance repair.

A Note About Pricing

Pricing on this blog is for reference only and may include time sensitive rebates. We make every attempt to provide accurate pricing at time of publishing. Please call the stores for most accurate price.

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