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Could you struggle to get your hands on garden furniture?

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Popular retailers like Argos, John Lewis and Ikea along with a host of other major firms appear to be running low of garden furniture stock with one even posting a warning on its website. 

Argos currently has a sign stating that due to ‘high demand’ stock of garden furniture is low.

Meanwhile, on John Lewis, it has 72 different garden furniture sets on its website. However, the vast majority – 60 items – are currently showing as out of stock.

A perfect storm of the pandemic, chaos at ports, warmer winters, increased demand from China, inflation and a rise in home renovations have all played a part in demand outstripping supply.

Sheds and garden furniture are low in stock in many stores as there has been high demand

Sheds and garden furniture are low in stock in many stores as there has been high demand

Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘High demand and increased friction following exit from the EU has put pressure on supplies of garden furniture.’

‘Retailers are working hard to address and rectify the issue and will do everything they can to ensure consumers are not affected.’ 

James Whiteley, owner of White Stores and Nova, a garden furniture wholesale business, told This is Money: ‘We have seen a significant increase in sales. The whole industry has moved up a notch which has led to a shortage of supply, not just in the UK but globally.’

An Ikea spokesperson added: ‘Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an unprecedented demand for products that help people to live, work and play more comfortably from home. 

‘This was especially true as we went into lockdown last spring and customers were keen to make the most of the beautiful weather, with searches for Ikea sun loungers increasing by as much as 1,364 per cent year-on-year between March and May. 

‘Whilst our global supply chain – including the ports and goods terminals where our products are received – has been impacted by the cumulative effects of Covid-19, we are working hard to restore full availability across our product range ahead of our stores reopening and the warmer weather returning.’ 

Argos put a sign up on their website to say they are running out of stock on garden furniture

Argos put a sign up on their website to say they are running out of stock on garden furniture

Homebase is another retailer which has very low stock with only 3 out of 32 products available when it comes to garden furniture.

On the Range website, just 18 of 132 garden lounge sets were available whilst only 41 of 307 Patio sets were in stock when we checked on 15 March 2021.

Robert Dyas showed as having more sets available but many were down to their last numbers. 

Meanwhile, Dunelm’s website shows it currently has 97 garden sets available for delivery whilst 58 are out of stock. On Wayfair just 136 out of 1,119 garden sofa sets were available. 

A quick search on social media shows a number of people are frustrated with UK retailers for not being able to keep up stock:

One Twitter user said they were struggling to find any garden furniture in stock at present

One Twitter user said they were struggling to find any garden furniture in stock at present

Another customer took to Twitter to say their Homebase order has not been delivered

Another customer took to Twitter to say their Homebase order has not been delivered

One customer said all of the Range's garden furniture sets were sold out online

One customer said all of the Range’s garden furniture sets were sold out online

Demand is one of the biggest factors with 48 per cent of consumers intending to spend more on gardens and outside areas, according to data from Mintel.

Marco Amasanti, Mintel retail analyst, added: ‘Gardens and outdoor areas remain in the spotlight, as many housebound consumers look to extend the scope of their living spaces with the return of warmer weather. 

‘This timing mirrors that of last year, as sales surged in the run-up to the bumper Easter bank holiday weekend. 

‘Moving forwards, this focus will remain, even as restrictions begin to ease from later on in the month. 

‘However, as experienced, this huge demand will continue to heap pressure on stocks of garden furniture, heaters, lighting and outdoors dining while demand is also set to upscale, driving an appetite for home extensions, conservatories and garden rooms over the coming year.’

Experts believe smaller suppliers will be unfairly hit as they do not have the buying power of the bigger garden building manufacturers.  

‘There have been supply chain challenges’: Garden furniture firm, Nova, have seen orders soar 

James Whiteley is the founder of one of the UK's largest garden furniture retailers

James Whiteley is the founder of one of the UK’s largest garden furniture retailers

One of the UK’s largest garden furniture retailers, White Stores, said demand has picked up globally with the capacity for products overwhelmed by the number of orders.  

James Whiteley, said the shortage of products was largely due to the factories producing his products only having a certain amount of capacity. 

Despite demand picking up, the factories do not have the capacity to keep up with the orders and has been ‘overwhelmed’.

This coupled with firms not having enough physical storage to keep up with the increased number of orders has meant there have been several challenges.

However, James said it hasn’t all been bad: ‘We’ve fared better than most due to being one of the largest businesses in the industry. 

‘The bigger you are, the easier you fared as factories and productions value biggest customers more and they are taking precedent.

‘As a company we made the decision we would have to ship garden furniture as that’s all we sell. We negotiated with freight companies and whilst we didn’t pay the horrendous figures some of our competitors have, we still paid a serious premium on existing freight rates.

‘We haven’t had to put our prices up much and we suffered most of the increase costs. Just because freight rates go up, it doesn’t mean you should be selling your products for more money.’

He doesn’t see demand changing in the short term. 

‘Whilst more people will be looking to go on holiday as soon as they can there is also a school of thought that there could be a sea of change and more people will want to continue spending time at home and in their garden.’ 

Sheds could double in price

Meanwhile, Britons could pay up to 50 per cent more for their garden sheds due to a global shortage of timber.

Shed manufacturer Kybotech is warning consumers that prices will rocket as summer approaches with customers potentially left waiting months for their outdoor building.  

With regards to sheds in particular, warm winters in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, have also led to less trees being felled with muddy terrain being impossible for heavy vehicles to navigate. 

Kybotech, owner of BillyOh, has also seen sales of log cabins increase by 142 per cent over the last 12 months with an increased demand for outdoor living, working and storage space.   

Charles Walton, Kybotech founder, said: ‘We’re now in the second year of timber shortages and the impact is beginning to be felt.

‘We’ve had two consecutive warm winters which has meant considerably less timber being felled and resulting in a massive global shortage. Other factors have come into play too which have compounded the problem.

‘Combined they have the potential to push up timber prices by as much as 50 per cent and at some point a proportion of that cost will be passed on to the consumer.’

Container chaos: Furniture prices likely to rise 

When the pandemic hit, shipping companies transporting goods across globe didn’t believe there would be much demand for products and therefore decided to take a large number of their ships off the seas.  

However, this meant all containers that have come over to the UK now had few ships to take the empty containers back to China, where much garden furniture is built, creating a build up here and a shortage over there. 

As such, the shipping industry wanted to make sure all working ships were at full capacity. 

This led to increased pricing as there was still high demand, despite what shipping firms originally thought, and not enough ships in circulation to fulfill the demand. 

In some cases, prices to ship goods for retailers jumped from £850 to over £12,000 per container. This is Money has reported and shone a light on since problems began to surface last September. 

Walton warned the combined factors will mean prices inevitably rise. 

He said: ‘It won’t just be businesses like ours which will feel the impact of the shortage. Construction companies and small builders will struggle to get the softwood they need to peg out buildings. It will be felt across many sectors.

‘At some point and as the shortage worsens, we will be left with little choice but to increase our prices.

‘It’s impossible to put a date on when customers should expect that, but our advice is to buy while prices are still low. Everything from our playhouses to our log cabins will inevitably be hit with a new price tag over the next few months.

‘For now, we have the capability and resources to keep our prices as they are and we’re committed to doing that for as long as we can.’

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.



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SPAR continues to grow its Italian portfolio

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SPAR Italy continues to expand the network of its neighbourhood stores. One of the latest additions to the portfolio, the INTERSPAR Hypermarket in Belvedere Marittimo (Cosenza) has recently reopened its doors following renovation. The new look-and-feel of this store is part of SPAR Italy partner Maiora’s store renovation programme that will continue throughout 2021 in Calabria.

 

Gruppo 3A, the SPAR Brand license holder for the Northwest of Italy, has welcomed a new DESPAR store in Alba, a renowned culinary and wine-making city in Cuneo province. SPAR Italy partner Aspiag Service has recently opened a new DESPAR store in Rosolina (Rovigo), a coastal town below Venice. On a sales area of 800m², of which 500m² are dedicated to food, the store employs 25 team members, including 15 new hires. In keeping with SPAR’s environmental commitment, Aspiag prioritizes environmental sustainability and local community while opening new stores in the region.

 

Paolo Ambrosini, Aspiag Service sales area manager for the Veneto region, said: “Our goal is to be close to people and the environment. For this reason, we are entering a partnership with a local charity that will distribute unsold goods also from this new SPAR store to support our local community and its most vulnerable members.”

 

On Friday 21 May 2021, a new EUROSPAR store opened its doors in Castelrotto (Bolzano). The renovated EUROSPAR Dolomiti store is operated by brothers Robert and Filip Stuflesser, SPAR independent retailers who own SPAR stores in Ortisei and Fie. The local community has welcomed EUROSPAR Dolomiti, with its vast assortment, local products, fresh food, and excellent delicatessen department.

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Rics: Home sales boom will ease when stamp duty holiday ends

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A gulf between the number of house hunters in the market and properties for sale has grown to the widest in eight years.

Estate agents are seeing strong sales and a spike in buyer interest, as many hope to beat September’s tapered stamp duty holiday deadline, but new listings continue to fall from already very low levels, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said. 

House prices jumped sharply again in May, according to its member estate agents, as a ‘real mismatch’ between the supply and demand of homes continues to afflict the property market.  

Rics said that current sales boom is not expected to last once the stamp duty holiday ends

 Rics said that current sales boom is not expected to last once the stamp duty holiday ends

However, Rics said that current sales boom is not expected to last once the stamp duty holiday ends, as estate agents’ sales expectations for the coming twelve months have now turned flat. 

‘This suggests that the Stamp Duty holiday is the primary driving force behind the latest market trend,’ Rics noted. 

This two-bed terraced home in Lytham, Lancashire is on the market for £300,000

This two-bed terraced home in Lytham, Lancashire is on the market for £300,000

In New Lubbesthorpe, Leicestershire, this four-bed townhouse is listed for £325,000

In New Lubbesthorpe, Leicestershire, this four-bed townhouse is listed for £325,000

In Heswall, Wirral, this five-bed home is on Rightmove with an asking price of £450,000

In Heswall, Wirral, this five-bed home is on Rightmove with an asking price of £450,000

This new-build, two-bed property near Buxton in Derbyshire is on Rightmove for £274,995

This new-build, two-bed property near Buxton in Derbyshire is on Rightmove for £274,995

This four-bed detached home in Lincoln is listed on Rightmove for £875,000

This four-bed detached home in Lincoln is listed on Rightmove for £875,000

Michael Darwin, an estate agent and surveyor in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, said that demand still exceeded supply – and that for the first time in 40 years, they had all of their property ‘either sold or under offer’. 

Chris Stonock, an estate agent and surveyor at Your Move in County Durham and Tyne and Wear, said it was still very much a sellers’ market with not enough stock of homes to meet rising demand.

He also noted that the pipeline of sales currently being processed was at levels he had not seen in 15 years, echoing a recent report by Rightmove, which said it is seeing the biggest sales logjam in a decade.      

Rics' chart shows a drop in new homes coming to the market, with the reading below zero

Rics’ chart shows a drop in new homes coming to the market, with the reading below zero

Meanwhile, Rics enquiries chart this shows a continuing spike in buyer interest

Meanwhile, Rics enquiries chart this shows a continuing spike in buyer interest

Regardless of a slowdown in sales brought about by the end of the stamp duty holiday, prices will keep on rising as the imbalance between supply and demand is set to continue, according to Rics.  

The upward pressure on house prices intensified last month, with 83 per cent of estate agents noting an increase rather than a decrease, up from 76 per cent the previous month. 

Agents also anticipate that prices will rise for the year ahead, as 64 per cent more respondents expect an increase. 

The upward pressure on house prices intensified last month, Rics said

The upward pressure on house prices intensified last month, Rics said

All parts of the UK continue to display above the average house price growth

All parts of the UK continue to display above the average house price growth

Simon Rubinsohn, Rics chief economist, said: ‘Ending a tax break always has the potential to be a little disruptive for a market but with the economy performing better than could have been expected even a short while ago and the cost of money still at rock bottom levels, the principal drivers supporting demand will remain in place even after the expiry of the stamp duty holiday.’ 

All parts of the UK continue to display strong feedback regarding house price growth, with exceptionally sharp readings being posted in Northern Ireland, the South West and North West of England, and Wales, Rics said. 

Estate agents' sales expectations for the coming twelve months have now turned flat

Estate agents’ sales expectations for the coming twelve months have now turned flat

Kevin Burt-Gray, an estate agent and surveyor at Pocock & Shaw in Cambridge said they had a ‘very busy’ past few months ‘with resultant increase in property prices’.

‘Difficult to predict market for the rest of year but activity has dropped off as we approach the end of the stamp duty holiday,’ he added.

Activity has dropped off as we approach the end of the stamp duty holiday 

Kevin Burt-Gray, Pocock & Shaw in Cambridge

He also noted that smaller one and two bedroom apartments are still proving slow to sell as much of the property boom is being driven by people looking for larger homes with outdoor space as a result of the pandemic. 

Chris Gooch, of estate agents Carter Jonas in Winchester, said: ‘With supply tight, prices are increasing, especially for country housing and we expect this to continue despite the SDLT holiday phasing out.’ 

Meanwhile, rents also keep on rising…

A similar pattern is seen in the lettings market, as tenant demand continues to outstrip supply, pushing rents higher, Rics said. 

In May, a net balance of +48 per cent of estate agents reported a rise in demand for rental properties. 

However, the balance of new rental properties being listed continued to fall for the tenth consecutive month. 

This imbalance, as in the case for house prices, has led to 55 per cent more agents predicting rents to rise in the coming three months. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Maternity restrictions still in place despite agreement they should end

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Restrictions within maternity care are still in place in some hospitals, despite the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and the chief medical officer all agreeing they should end.

According to maternity care campaigners, some hospitals are still not allowing partners to stay with expectant mothers for the full duration of labour.

Instead, partners are permitted only when the woman is in “active labour”, dilated a certain number of centimetres, or has their own room.

Other hospitals are not facilitating partner visits after the birth.

Guidance from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in relation to maternity units was updated on Friday, June 11th.

“An accompanying person [partner] should generally be facilitated in accompanying a woman throughout the process of labour and childbirth during the time the woman is in the labour ward,” it said.

“Before moving to the labour ward, in particular when the woman is in a multibed area, access for an accompanying person may be limited by the requirement to respect the needs of other patients for rest and privacy.”

This addition is new, with the previous version only stating that a partner should be able to accompany a woman “throughout the process” of labour and childbirth, whether spontaneous or induced.

This guidance also stated that maternity services should allow a minimum 30-minute daily visit from partners, and partners should also be allowed to attend the 20-week scan and visit their baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU).

The guidance added that any restrictions on the above should be based on a documented risk assessment that is reviewed regularly.

‘Passing the buck’

Krysia Lynch, chair of the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services in Ireland, said it appears that most hospitals are allowing partners to attend the neonatal ICU and 20-week anatomy scans.

However, she said the updated guidance published on Friday is “passing the buck” with regards to allowing partners to be present in early labour.

“It says partner access may be limited by the ‘requirement to respect the needs of other patients for rest and privacy’. Who decides that one person gets to override everyone else’s needs and wishes?”

She added that it is “curious” that the guidance says partner access can be limited by other people on the ward, as opposed to Covid-19 infection control measures. “This line focuses on privacy and respect, not Covid.”

Up to 200 women who gave birth in the past three weeks have contacted the association, Ms Lynch said. “Their experience has been the same as the people who gave birth in the three weeks before that. People are so angry.”

She maintained that women should have a partner to accompany them in the early stages of labour: “They are entering the hospitals in labour on their own, and their partners are called up when the hospital sees fit. They could be on their own for hours.”

Ms Lynch said it is critical for women to have support in early labour, as they often don’t have access to pain relief or a one-on-one midwife.

She said gyms, cinemas, restaurants and pubs are now open, but partners are still restricted when trying to support their pregnant loved one. “There are people who are delaying going to hospital so they can be with their partner for as much of labour as possible.”

Maternity rights campaigner Linda Kelly from Cork, who gave birth during the first wave of the pandemic, said she can’t understand why the restrictions are still in place when the majority of healthcare staff are vaccinated, as are a growing number of pregnant people and their partners.

“Women have contacted hospitals saying their partner is fully vaccinated, but they still can’t attend all of their appointments, there’s no rationale for this.

“It’s been very distressing for people. They thought restrictions would be lifted in their totality.”

‘Infrastructural challenges’

East hospitals

In a statement, the Ireland East Hospital Group said with the exception of the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street, their three regional maternity units are part of a general hospital campus.

“These hospitals have specific infrastructural challenges where social distancing cannot be sufficiently met within the Covid guidelines while facilitating partners to attend with the maternity patients.”

In Mullingar, Wexford and St Luke’s in Kilkenny, partners can attend “active labour” and theatre for scheduled caesarean sections.

Wexford General Hospital and St Luke’s General Hospital are not allowing partners to visit after the birth.

Holles Street and Regional Hospital Mullingar are allowing pre- and post-birth visits.

South/Southwest hospitals

A representative for South/Southwest Hospital Group said that once a woman is transferred to a single space for induction or dilation, their partner is welcome to accompany them.

“Induction can take up to 2-3 days, normally in shared spaces, ie in four-bedded wards, so it was never the practice in our maternity hospital that a partner would stay for the entirety of this process.

“Partners ordinarily would be asked to leave at 10pm to allow for sleep and rest for the patients.”

Unlike Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH), the representative said, hospitals in Waterford, Kerry and Tipperary have to navigate “many factors” when it comes to visiting restrictions as they are general hospitals.

CUMH is allowing visits to inpatients.

On the Health Service Executive’s website, it does not say whether post-birth visits are being facilitated at the three general hospitals.

Portlaoise hospital

In the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise partners can attend the birth, once the woman is in labour and admitted to the delivery suite. This includes when the woman is induced in the delivery suite.

Partners can also be present in theatre at caesarean sections and at the booking scan.

“The hospital has reintroduced scheduled visiting to the maternity ward for antenatal and postnatal women, which is arranged by appointment [and usually lasts an hour],” a representative said.

Coombe hospital

Meanwhile, in the Coombe, partners can attend the labour ward when the woman is in established labour (1cm dilated), and they can attend the theatre for a caesarean section.

Partners can also attend early pregnancy assessment unit appointments, as well as dating and anatomy scans.

Designated partners may also visit the wards daily during certain times.

UL hospitals

University of Limerick Hospitals Group said that nominated partners get 45-minute visiting slots on the hospital’s postnatal wards, between the hours of 6pm and 8pm daily.

“Birthing partners will also continue to be supported in attending the labour ward and theatre.”

RCSI hospitals

When the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) hospital group (which includes Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, Cavan General Hospital and the Rotunda) was asked what restrictions were in place at their maternity units and hospitals, it said: “National guidance is being adhered to by all maternity sites in the RCSI Hospital Group.”

According to the Rotunda’s website, if the woman is induced, partners will be able to join them only when active labour is established and she has been moved to a single-occupancy room.

Visits are being facilitated in all of these hospitals.

Saolta hospitals (west)

Saolta University healthcare group, which comprises University Hospital Galway, along with maternity units in the Sligo, Letterkenny, Mayo and Portiuncula hospitals, said their maternity units are facilitating access for birthing partners in line with recent national guidance on visiting restrictions, published on June 11th.

According to the HSE website, partners of women attending University Hospital Galway may attend for the birth once the woman is admitted into a single room on the labour ward, and partners can attend a caesarean section.

In Mayo, partners are allowed to attend with mothers in labour, but they must leave the maternity department when the mother is transferred to the maternity ward.

In the other hospitals in this region, partners can accompany the pregnant person while in labour, but the HSE website doesn’t give specific details.

Inpatient visits are being facilitated in all of these hospitals.

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