Covid-19 left its footprint on 2020 and Fence Boss is eager to step into the new year. Updating Fence Boss customers on the current state of the fence industry is of upmost importance to us. The effects of Covid-19 on the fence industry were substantial and will last into the 2021 season.
When the first Covid-19 shutdown occurred in early 2020 most product shipments stopped because manufacturing plants shut down. Raw materials shortages occurred quickly as breaks in the supply chain started happening and consumers cooped up at home set out to tackle home improvement projects. Lumber, aluminum, vinyl and wood inventories were wiped out in the frenzy to make good use of time spent at home. During the shutdown companies like Fence Boss were still ordering and selling, so when manufacturing plants reopened they had masses of product orders, little inventory and a lot of restrictions regarding workers and production. Combined with raw materials shortages it was too much for the plants to keep up with and fence customers were faced with lead times of up to 12 weeks for some vinyl and products and 5-6 weeks for aluminum. Lumber prices increased 200% in just a few short months, lumber mills were wiped out. Vinyl prices increased as the demand went up for vinyl fence because for the first time ever the gap between the cost of a wood system and vinyl system had closed substantially.
Like other companies forced to pivot in a difficult circumstance, Fence Boss enacted policies to decrease the negative impact on the company to make sure all employees kept their jobs at the same time we aimed to continue providing the best service possible. Scheduling was nothing short of a train wreck because shipments were 100% unpredictable. Many times we were promised the same shipments for countless weeks in a row and we were continually disappointed, along with our customers, when the shipments did not arrive as promised. Freight companies were overwhelmed. We scheduled in increments of 2-3 days at most, working with whatever product would arrive on the lot. We cut out almost all overtime (to the dismay of employees) to conserve cash flow and decreased spending wherever possible. It was a tough year for manufacturers and suppliers and the rate of mistakes on orders increased as overworked manufacturing and supply house employees did their best to provide service in a difficult market. When mistakes on orders were made, companies like Fence Boss and its customers had to bear the brunt while we waited on the right materials or replacement for damaged materials to be sent. In short, it was one of the craziest seasons the owner had witnessed in 10 years. We thought the historic flooding that wrecked the spring/summer season of 2019 was bad, but 2020 most certainly out did 2019! Most customers were agreeable and understood the situation was completely out of our control. For the few customers who decided frustration was the way to go, we provided the best service we could and counted our blessings that all of our employees kept their jobs and did their best.
One important lesson from the last season is that we can only do our best and when we fail we can only get back up and give it another try. We won’t get it right every time and when we don’t get it right, we make sure to go the extra mile to fix mishaps. We cannot fix lead times caused by the universe turning upside down. However, we can stay committed to exceptional quality installations and to making it right when thing go wrong. We will always choose a positive outlook and attitude because we believe that will carry our business forward and provide the most benefit to our employees.
So what does this all mean for companies at the ground level, like Fence Boss?
- Longer lead times. Throughout 2020, Fence Boss customers had exponentially longer lead times than normal. Lead times are given on a consumer by product basis. Meaning, lead times differ per product and even product color and the lead times can change weekly. As we move forward into 2021, lead times are still long. However, suppliers have a positive outlook and think the lead times will get better as the season plays out.
- Price increases on lumber. Lumber mills have increased prices as much as 200% since April, 2020. It is to the benefit of some customers to upgrade to a low maintenance, vinyl privacy fence in place of a new wood privacy fence, simply because the two products are now in the same price range. Fence Boss is hopeful the price of lumber will drop back down after the lumber shortages are resolved.
- Increased demand for fencing. With consumers and children spending more time at home, there is an increased need for security and privacy. Fence Boss is happy to meet fencing needs and will do our best to communicate the difficulties to customers so that the disappointment caused by waiting is a little less painful.
- The steel market is now volatile, steel was relatively stable in 2020 so chain link projects were one of the fastest installs available (and they were still slow because of everything listed above). Recent regulatory changes are driving the cost of steel up substantially in some cases. This means that chain link will most likely have supply and demand changes in 2021 and the steel market will experience price increases and shortages. We hope not and will continue to work with our suppliers and manufacturers to provide the best service we can.
Looking back on 2020 it is easy to focus on the stress caused by the pandemic. However, we feel it is important to focus on the positive at Fence Boss. We have had the opportunity of working with an abundance of patient, kind, and understanding Fence Boss customers and our employees are downright amazing, we love them and are very thankful we were able to keep everyone working. Our goal was to make it through the year without laying off any staff and we did it! We are proud of how we are overcame the difficult circumstances of 2020 and are ready to face the 2021 season with optimism and a determination to do better everyday.
It’s time to get on the Fence Boss job docket for projects in spring and summer of 2021! We provide free quotes for all residential and commercial projects. Contact Fence Boss about your next project: https://www.fencebossllc.com/contact-us/