MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Supply chain backups have experts recommending shoppers go back to brick-and-mortar stores to guarantee item availability.

The Problem Solvers have heard from frustrated consumers experiencing backups in delivery times for items like furniture and appliances.

The Problem Solvers spoke with one woman who ordered a new bed, matching chest and dresser on June 1. At first, the company told her it would be there in four to eight weeks. She knew that was a good option.

“A lot of places were telling me six months,” Ebony Coburn said.

But as soon as Coburn placed the order, the delivery time increased, first to 6-12 weeks, and then once that time passed she still didn’t have her furniture.

The WREG Problem Solvers spoke with Ernie Nichols, George Johnson Fellow and Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management at University of Memphis, about why this is happening.

“There’s no one reason that applies to all,” Nichols said.

For one, supply and demand for a lot of products got out of whack at the beginning of the pandemic when life needs changed drastically overnight. That led to a backup at the ports which is exacerbated by a shortage of truck drivers and COVID-19 itself.

“Depending where the item was produced, they had a COVID outbreak and in some countries, if you have an outbreak, they shut the facility down or in some cases shut the port down,” he said.

That’s exactly what the furniture company told the Problem Solvers about Coburn’s items in a statement: “Government-mandated COVID shutdowns in countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and China, where most furniture products are sourced, have pushed lead times on many products out as much as six to eight months.”

Instead they recommended customers purchase items from their warehouse, that can be delivered in two to three days.

In fact, Nichols recommended this strategy for all shoppers, especially going into the holidays.

“You may see people going back to brick-and-mortar stores where they can put their hands on a product as opposed to ordering online.”

As for Coburn, she ended up waiting 20 weeks for her delivery. In the end, the furniture showed up damaged.

The Problem Solvers inquired on her situation and she got a full refund for nearly $2,000.

She still needs to find a new bed. At least now, she has a strategy.

“To pick some furniture that is here,” she said.