Thursday, April 2, 2015

Waiting for Lawn Mowers

The mowing season traditionally gets started with the first weekend in April where I live, with spring weather creating the first burst of grass growth. Cooler weather may delay that by a week this year, and that’s a lucky thing, with retailers having hardly anything to sell. I looked for a new lawn mower at the web sites of home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes and department stores like Kmart. The online catalogs boasted dozens of models, but none that I looked at were actually available for purchase. The retailers had virtually nothing in the stores, their sites said, and even less for sale online. Warehouses nationally were depleted of most models. There was no estimate of a new supply coming in. I eventually found a unit available for sale at Walmart with a wait of one week, though there too other models were out of stock and not immediately available for order. If all goes well, I will have my new lawn mower next week. Walmart is not one of my go-to sources for anything, and it was my first purchase there since their exclusive arrangement on music CDs by Journey and Foreigner a few years ago.

It seems likely enough that lawn mowers are delayed in part by the high-profile problems at West Coast ports. I wonder too if there are problems resulting from retailers erroneously classifying lawn care as a summer activity. Lawns might be more visible in summer, but grass grows twice as fast in spring, so that half of the year’s lawn growth may occur in April and May. Whatever the reason, retailers are caught short with the season getting started. A delay of a few weeks in getting a lawn mower is no more than an inconvenience, but the fact that the supply chain hasn’t been able to keep up is a sign of how close to breaking large parts of the economy are even when things look like they’re going smoothly.