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Supply chain issues mean backlogged orders for Gerrells

Gerrells has been dealing with a supply shortage of virtually everything it sells — from equipment for team sports to something as simple as baseball caps.

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Retail Manager Michael Peterson (left) and Owner Eric Knudson stand behind the counter at Gerrells Sports Center and Hockey World, where supply chain issues have caused backlogs in product for months at a time.
Jacob Holley / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — As COVID-19 cases continue to dwindle in the Grand Forks region, its effects on businesses such as Gerrells Sports Center and Hockey World still remain.

Gerrells has been dealing with a supply shortage of virtually everything it sells — from equipment for team sports to something as simple as baseball caps.

“Pick an item,” Owner Eric Knudson said. “There are shortages every time we try to order something.”

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, supply chain issues have ravaged countless industries in the United States. Knudson said sporting goods retailers have been no exception.

“Our (baseball) glove wall… There should be 200 gloves on that wall,” Knudson said. “I don’t know if there’s 60.”

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Knudson said some of the issues his store faces right now stem from lockdowns in China, which experts say could cause more supply chain shortages for the foreseeable future. Shanghai, in particular, has one of the largest ports in the world, and strict permit regulations have caused a backlog in shipping containers.

“With as much that’s made that's coming out of Vietnam, China, you name it, once they get a factory that has COVID or an area that has COVID, all production just stops,” Retail Manager Michael Peterson said.

Because of this, orders for many items sold at the store have been backlogged for months at a time. For example, Knudson said someone ordered a pair of figure skates on Nov. 1 that did not arrive at Gerrells until March. What used to be a five-day window pre-COVID has become a months-long waiting game for the store and its customers.

Gerrells was notified by Wilson Sporting Goods that the company may not be able to supply tennis balls at all this year, when the pre-pandemic wait time for a shipment used to be about two weeks.

Knudson said this past week someone came in looking for baseball caps and asked Knudson when he could expect them to arrive.

“August,” Knudson said. “(That’s) for these ball caps that normally we would just press a button and they're ordered and we see him next week.”

For Riedell skates, there has been a leather shortage holding back the supply chain. For other companies, it is a litany of other components, and all it takes is for one part of a product to be unavailable for the supply chain to become jammed.

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At Gerrells Sports Center, 1004 S. Washington St. in Grand Forks, co-owner Eric Knudson has no immediate plans to open earlier on Sundays.

Because Gerrells supplies equipment for large groups, such as football helmets for an entire football team, sometimes parts of orders can fall through because the products will not be available in time for the season to start. Knudson said normally those orders can be completed and supplied in a timely manner, but now it entirely depends on what’s available at the moment.

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“Because of the supply issues, we’re able to maybe supply half of it,” Knudson said. “It’s frustrating to leave that business out there when loyal customers want to do business, and through no fault of ours whatsoever we can’t supply it.”

Knudson said its employees remain diligently scouring for product supply online every day. What used to be a simple buying process has become a game of online whack-a-mole when the little product being made becomes available.

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Gerrells will still take orders any time it can get them, but Knudson said transparency is key when it comes to dealing with customers concerned about wait times.

“We have great, loyal customers,” Knudson said. “We appreciate the patience, and we’re doing what we can to facilitate our customers.”

Knudson said he does not know what it will take for the supply chain issues to subside, but as long as shelves are empty, there’s not much that can be done.

“I've been here for 40 years and just have not seen any of these delays to the degree that we're seeing now,” Knudson said.

Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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