Accommodation Manufacturers Swamped, Work to Overcome Supply, Employee Issues

ben quiggle Jul 21, 2021
Man operating a machine

Patience is going to be the name of the game when it comes time for park owners to once again order campstore items, electrical pedestals, accommodation units and more this fall.

As editor of Woodall’s Campground Magazine (WCM), I speak with a lot of vendors from a variety of industries and they are all saying the same thing, “We are struggling to find materials.”

Not only that, but many companies are also battling with an increase in the costs of the materials they use.

I have spoken with park owners who are struggling to get basic items for their campstores. The distributors they utilize are doing their best to source products from here in the U.S. and overseas.

But, if you have read the news recently you know that anything coming from China is taking awhile to get here.

The situation is so bad that some companies are buying their own ships to carry products over. Home Depot is one example. Still, with shipping docks overwhelmed at the moment, whether this helps Home Depot is up in the air.

Perhaps the most notable impact in the outdoor hospitality industry is felt in the accommodation segment. From tipis to park model RVs, tents and more, manufacturers are seeing large backlogs and are sometimes left waiting for certain parts to finish units.

John Soard, national sales manager for Middlebury, Ind.-based Woodland Park, a manufacturer of park model RVs, noted that supply issues change from week to week.

“I guess the best way to describe it is, it's a moving target all the time,” he explained. “One week it is refrigerators we can’t get, and the next week it will be water heaters. If you don’t have a really good purchasing agent, then you are going to have problems.”

“We are crazy busy,” said Dan Smucker, owner and business manager of Gap, Pa.-based, Lancaster Log Cabins. “It’s been absolutely insane and I know it’s been the same way for everyone else. It’s been nice but it’s also been challenging for the same reasons everyone else has. It’s just hard to get materials and hard to find people but it’s going good though.”

The backup in getting supplies has also led to some other issues, including an increase in unit prices and backlogs that extend months.

Nicole Loffler, the owner of Nomadics Tipi Makers, advises park owners to plan ahead because of backlogs in production.

“We have been extremely busy and are currently three months out on the production of our tents,” advised Loffler. “It is important to stress that orders have to be placed early for next season. It would be good for owners to get orders in by the beginning of January for a May delivery.”

Soard noted that his company has a backlog that extends into the first quarter of next year.

Terri Stewart, of Pinnacle Park Homes Inc., a producer of PMRVs sold direct from its Ochlocknee, Ga. facility, said that the company has a backlog that extends out about four months at the moment.

Business at Stone Canyon Homes, a Brilliant, Ala.-based builder, is up 60%, according to David Pulliam, co-owner of the company.

“We are averaging about six to seven months at the moment to complete an order,” he explained.

Not only are the backlogs climbing, but prices are fluctuating so much that it has made it difficult for companies to lock in quote pricing for more than a couple weeks in general.

At Pinnacle Park Homes, Stewart said that generally a quoted price would be good for 30 days, but the company has had to make some adjustments.

“Now our quotes are good for about 10 days and that is it,” she said. “As soon as we get money on an order, those materials are ordered so that we lock it in as far as the price and availability.”

“We had our annual price increase for the model year and it was the worst that I have seen in all my years in the business,” said Soard. “With our backlog and the price increase you would have expected to see a few cancelled orders, but that isn’t happening and I think that is because everyone is in the same boat.”

What does all of this mean?

Having a good business plan in place is key as park owners look to expand and developers look to build. Ordering units at the last minute may mean that you will be left waiting months for supplies or units to arrive.

It is also important to practice patience as manufacturers struggle with supply and employee issues as they work to build units and other materials.

The outdoor hospitality industry is seeing an explosion in growth — something many owners have never seen before. Along with that comes growing pains.

Learning how to better manage your business and, in turn, working with trusted suppliers will hopefully help your business get the most out of this surge.