How Home Depot Took Supply Chain Frustrations Into Their Own Hands

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a number of innovations for retailers across the industry, but it also revealed the supply chain was broken.
Home Depot storefront

Shortages and delays have been common occurrences since the start of the pandemic, but as the U.S. returns to normal, those challenges haven’t gone away. That’s why one of the nation’s largest importers, Home Depot recently took the matter into its own hands--by contracting its own ship for the first time to import the supplies and products it needs, CNBC reported

"We have a ship that's solely going to be ours and it's just going to go back and forth 100% dedicated to Home Depot," President and Chief Operating Officer Ted Decker told CNBC.

The contracted ship will begin running next month, though the home improvement retailer has taken other unusual steps to bring in supplies during the last year. For example, Home Depot has flown in power tools, faucets, electrical components, fasteners and other "smaller, higher value items" by air freight, while also purchasing items on the spot market despite higher rates, CNBC reported. 

Home improvement products saw a huge surge in demand during the height of the pandemic. With lockdown measures in place, consumers took time to do home projects that may have been on the back-burner to accommodate a lifestyle with more time spent at home.

As the economy continues to recover and shoppers return to stores, keeping items in stock is more important than ever for retailers.

At the same time, the National Retail Federation is calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to ease congestion at America’s ports. Imports have reached an all-time high, but a number of supply chain issues continue to bottleneck businesses. In a letter, NRF requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the impact of supply chain issues on retailers, workers and customers. One recent survey from NRF found 97% of retailers said they’ve been impacted by port and shipping delays.

“The supply chain disruption issues, especially the congestion affecting our key maritime ports, are causing significant challenges for America’s retailers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay wrote in the letter. “The congestion issues have not only added days and weeks to our supply chains but have led to inventory shortages impacting our ability to serve our customers. In addition, these delays have added significant transportation and warehousing costs for retailers.”