Is there still an issue in supply chains for LYS?
The short answer: Yes.
Some of you may have seen last year's article from the Washington Post that listed yarn as one of the items that might have been in short supply last winter. If not, you can click here to read it. And, if you were looking for very specific brands, colors, or fiber blends, you probably noticed that LYS weren't always stocking as much as you had thought they might. Because while people outside of the industry may not believe there is a supply shortage or may even assume that because the US has opened up significantly since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, the fact is that once the supply chain has been interrupted, it often takes a couple of years to catch up.
The Post article points to the fact that the world's top producers of wool--Australia, New Zealand, China, and the United States--have all been affected by the covid-19 pandemic, and as such, supply lines have been disrupted and may experience further delays as medical experts continue to warn of a significant increase in covid cases and hospitalizations last fall and winter. This was true and remains true, as shipping, delivery, and processing has been affected differently in different parts of the world, and depending on the guidelines and safety measures taken by a farm or a mill, the processing of raw fiber has been slowed down, and it hasn't yet had a chance to catch up to its pre-covid levels.
This is also true when it comes to notions, needles, and hooks. There's been a shortage of the materials used to produce our notions, needles, and hooks, along with a shortage of workers to manufacture them and shipping delays, which is why so many notions companies have either discontinued various items they once carried and, in many cases, have also had to raise their prices to account for the supply issue.
Additionally, the Post article also seems to suggest that hoarding may be an issue in terms of yarn supply, and speaking from someone in the industry who has been tracking inventory and working closely with the independent dyers whose yarns are stocked in the store, yes, hoarding has been a major issue over the past 19 months. What this means is that with less general stock for your small indie dyer to purchase because mills weren't working at full capacity, indies who don't have a standing order with a mill and were purchasing undyed yarn when stock went live on the supplier sites were competing with one another over what stock there was. The more working capital a dyer has, the more stock they were able to purchase, which means that many people were buying in larger quantities, as well, and if you came late to the table, then you weren't able to purchase nearly as much as someone with more capital than you.
I can tell you from experience over the past year and half that many of HW's vendors have reported issues with shipments sitting in containers in customs or not having left their place of origin. And certain yarn lines and colors are completely backordered. Independent dyers are having difficulty securing undyed yarn bases, as their mills simply don't have the raw materials to process or they are competing with other dyers for limited quantities available from their suppliers. Some companies were able to plan ahead and secure adequate supplies from their mills, but there are reports that some items--yarn, needles, hooks, notions--are backordered, at least for awhile.
What does this mean for the average LYS?
For the most part, LYS have been forced to make some changes. We have had to adjust to various yarns, blends, and colors being discontinued, or we have stocked up in anticipation of coming trends or have been making smaller purchases when we are able to help keep our indie dyers afloat. We've also had to explain to people that while they may really want a particular size needle or hook or notion that we haven't seen it in stock for quite a while and that we honestly don't know when it will be back in stock. If you've been to Habetrot's Wheel recently, you'll see that the store is pretty well stocked, and we do have more yarn on the way for fall. However, the best way to ensure that you have the yarn and fiber for what you want to make in the coming season is to fill in gaps in your stash when you are able. And, Berroco's DropShip program does allow you to order any color, any yarn, and any quantity of that yarn currently offered by Berroco, regardless of whether or not HW stocks that particular yarn. Berroco's warehouses are very well supplied. While Berroco is the only yarn company we stock with this offer, we do have a pretty awesome collection of yarns, notions, and fibers in stock.