Weather issues: Fans and air conditioning units are in short supply, but retailers expect stocks to return in the coming months

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SINGAPORE – After their air conditioning units broke down last Saturday (May 28), Ms Wong and her husband’s top priority was to get new ones as soon as possible, as they found the sweltering heat unbearable.

Ms Wong, who lives in a four-room Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat with her husband and child, said they turned on their air conditioners every night “without fail”.

“Now that we have no air conditioning, it’s terribly hot,” said the 37-year-old, who declined to give her full name.

Ms Wong and her husband were originally considering a Mitsubishi air conditioner, but after hearing it was out of stock and new units wouldn’t arrive until around August, they gave up on the idea and decided to go with their second. choice – a Daikin air-con.

But the family is still waiting for their air conditioner, the seller having made the wrong delivery date.

With the mercury reaching record highs, it’s no surprise that more and more Singaporeans are looking to buy fans and air conditioners for their homes. However, retailers say there is a wait of up to three months for popular brands of these devices, due to global shortages of semiconductors and device parts.

Commerce and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong warned during a budget debate in February that the Russian-Ukrainian war could impact the semiconductor industry and the market for tech goods. .

Lockdowns in China due to its zero Covid approach have also disrupted semiconductor production operations, with suppliers such as Foxconn hit by the work stoppage in mid-March, Reuters news agency reported. .

That leaves retailers here struggling with shortages of appliance stock and many have had to offer their customers alternatives or prioritize who gets their purchases first.

The stock-outs affect top brands such as KDK fans, Mitsubishi air conditioners and Samsung washing machines, retailers told TODAY.

PROVIDE ALTERNATIVES

Ms. Catherine Low, who runs Etronin Home Appliances in Tampines, said the store receives about 100 orders for KDK fans each month, but only receives about 20 to 30 units from their supplier.

To manage the problem, she checks with her customers to see who needs the ventilators the most, then prioritizes who gets them first.

Mr Francis Lim, director of Best City Electrical and Furniture, said his store was “not so badly affected” as they carry multiple brands and are able to offer alternatives to their customers.

“I would say 99% of our customers would just switch brands or models because it’s just not practical to wait,” the 41-year-old said.

“If a customer’s washing machine goes bad, I don’t think they’ll use a washboard for three months just to wait for a specific brand. Fortunately, most of my clients are very understanding and will switch to another model. »

However, in his experience, those who insisted on a particular model faced wait times “as short as two weeks and as long as three months”, he said.

Mr. Jayson Teh, 34, managing partner of New City Electrical, noted that the shortage has been exacerbated by the recent heat wave, which has caused a surge in demand for fans and air conditioners.

Sales of portable air conditioning units have increased by 200-300% and Mr Teh is now selling 30-40 fans a day, up from just 10 a day before May.

Ms. Delci Khoo is another customer who decided to change her appliance purchase to another model, after discovering that the Samsung washing machine she wanted was out of stock.

The 49-year-old recently moved into a five-room HDB flat and had ordered all of her appliances, except her air conditioning, from an appliance store in the Circuit Road area.

“I wanted to try other sellers, but it was too complicated to manage multiple sellers and deliveries, so I decided to just change the model and get it from one place,” Ms Khoo said.

“THE SHORTAGE SHOULD BE SOON RESOLVED”

In an explainer published by TODAY in March, experts predicted that the shortage of semiconductors “will last at least another one to two years due to the evolution of the strains of coronavirus that cause Covid-19”.

However, retailers now believe the outlook is more positive.

“Most of the chips are from Shanghai and since they are open now, the issues should be resolved soon,” Lim said.

Agree, Mr Teh said: “The shortage should improve over the next few months as manufacturers seek alternative suppliers for materials.”

However, he warned that appliance prices are likely to rise in the coming months as manufacturers begin to compete for raw materials.

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