You probably don’t give much thought to where mobility equipment comes from, but in fact, much of it is sourced internationally and with the current pressure on logistics caused by numerous pressures, a threat to supply into the UK is a very real possibility.
As if things weren’t complicated enough in the current international supply chain, the stranding of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal has brought a whole new and serious dimension to the problem as Sky News reports.
Although it might seem a minor situation in the scheme of things, from a supply perspective of good from the east into the UK, the Suez is actually one of the most important links from East to West and has been so for thousands of years.
This situation alone is causing some to speculate whether the supply of items like toilet rolls and other household essentials may also be threatened, as Yaёl Bizouati-Kennedy reports in Yahoo Finance.
So why is supply of items like mobility scooters, wheelchairs, daily living aids and other goods being so badly affected at this time?
The Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have impacted both sides of the coin of supply and demand.
That being that demand has increased significantly as professional users like the NHS, care homes and domestic buyers have an increased need for mobility equipment as a direct result of greater numbers becoming sick or immobile and needing equipment and support.
Then supply has also been affected, with the dual pressures of both Brexit and Covid-19 coming to bear down on the fragile supply chain into the UK.
Brexit alone, with its new requirements for shippers to provide compliance with new regulations and paperwork, has created port backlogs that have severely disrupted the normal routes where good come into or leave the UK.
Price increases an inevitability
But compound this with the fact that container shipping prices have risen sharply over the last few months and it’s no wonder that mobility goods retailers have been forced to increase their prices to cover these additional container costs.
As a retail sector, mobility goods operators are vulnerable to these price variations but they are seeing much greater effects over more product lines than in previous years, going back to the financial crisis of 2008-10.
Aren’t we coming out of lockdown, why are there still problems?
Although the UK is indeed implementing one of the world’s most successful vaccine rollouts and well over half of the adult population (at the time of writing) are vaccinated with first doses, there are still many issues affecting the supply and pricing of mobility equipment.
If there was just one of these factors, such as Brexit, Covid or the closure of the Suez, then supplies would still be affected to some degree.
But what is very different with this situation, and largely unprecedented is that these pressures on supply are all happening at the same time, all acting concurrently to compound the supply chain situation.
So although we are thankfully coming out of the most severe restrictions happening due to Covid, there will be a significant lag time before international supply chains normalise and find their own level again, hence the current pressures.