- Many wedding registry items are backordered or delayed due to global supply chain issues.
- Those issues have led the housewares industry to issue a plea for relief to President Joe Biden.
- Experts say many couples are willing to waiting for their gifts; others are opting for cash funds.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
It wasn’t until I was partway through making my wedding registry that I noticed a pattern.
The cookie dough scoop? It’s backordered until September. The serving bowl? It won’t be in stock until December. The fancy Japanese knife? It won’t be available until February – maybe.
The backlog is a symptom of a much larger problem, a global issue, in fact: Disrupted supply chains.
Supply chain issues are well-documented and have persisted for months, the result of the pandemic’s impact on the global economy. A combination of several factors – including work stoppages, labor crises, and shipping backlogs – has led to a shortage in everything from nitrile gloves to golf clubs.
It’s hit the home furnishings sector hard, so much so that Mark Schumacher, the CEO of the North American Home Furnishings Association, an industry trade group, recently issued a plea to President Joe Biden directly, asking for relief from “out-of-control shipping costs” and other supply chain disruptions.
“We need your help, and we need it now,” Schumacher wrote in an open letter to Biden.
It may take several more months before things return to normal. The International Housewares Association, a trade group that represents retailers in the housewares market, recently warned that the turbulence will likely last “at a minimum through February 2022.”
These issues have coincided with soaring demand from consumers. At Williams-Sonoma, the home furnishings corporation that also owns Pottery Barn and West Elm, there’s no “evidence that growth trends are waning,” CEO Laura Alber told investors during the company’s second-quarter earnings call this week. The company crushed earnings and upped its full-year revenue outlook, sending its stock soaring to an all-time high.
While some of that demand stems from people just wanting to upgrade their homes after spending so much time inside of them throughout the last 18 months, weddings are a piece of the puzzle: Williams-Sonoma said it saw a 98% increase in wedding registry sales compared to 2020 levels.
An uptick in ‘non-tangible gifts’
But if demand is soaring, and products are delayed, what does that mean for couples getting married in 2021 or early 2022? Are they going to be waiting for months on bedding or kitchen utensils, items that are delayed or in short supply due to the ongoing supply chain issues?
The short answer is: Yes, but a lot of couples think it’s worth the wait, said Melissa Trentadue, manager of community at wedding company Zola, which offers services like wedding websites, invitations, vendor lists, and registries.
“Supply chain issues have impacted the entire retail industry,” Trentadue told Insider in an email, “but we’ve actually seen that couples are generally willing to wait for their most-wanted items.”
Zola alerts couples that an item is backordered and gives them the option to choose something else, but most couples hold out, even after their wedding date has passed, in order to get the gift they really want, Trentadue said.
Other couples are avoiding the issue altogether by setting up dedicated funds for their house or honeymoon – Trentadue said that 80% of the couples who use Zola have cash funds on their registries, and they’re increasingly breaking them up into smaller buckets like honeymoon flights, hotels, excursions, couples massages, meals, or pet care while they’re away, which Trentadue said helps guests feel involved, and therefore more likely to contribute.
The Knot, a 25-year-old wedding company that also allows couples to set up a website and registry online, is seeing the impacts of the pandemic on its registries as well, Stephanie Whitacre, vice president of merchandising e-commerce, told Insider via email.
“We’ve heard from our brand partners that the impact of COVID has manifested in many different ways, from increased customer demand to shipping container shortages to changing regulations in areas of production, making it difficult to estimate availability,” she said.
To help combat this issue, The Knot created new tools to alert couples if products are out of stock, and now offers guidance on whether couples should wait for the item or replace it with something similar. The company also introduced the option to register for experiences like helicopter tours or cooking classes as an alternative to physical gifts.
And, of course, there are cash funds, which have jumped in popularity on The Knot: Couples registering for cash funds jumped more than 50% between April and July 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, Whitacre said.
“While most couples continue to register for gifts to add to or upgrade what they already have, we’ve also seen over one-third of couples opt for non-tangible gifts, like cash or experiences,” she said.
So for people getting married in 2022 like me, there’s no guarantee that our gifts will arrive on time and there’s a higher likelihood we’ll opt to register for one-of-a-kind experiences or cash funds. These issues preventing the retail industry from operating smoothly serve as one more reminder that even though weddings have resumed mostly as usual (for now, anyway), we’re still living through a pandemic – and there’s no telling how long we’ll be feeling the impacts.