By Daryl Michel, Key Account Manager
We know it can be frustrating when you see “out of stock” below one of your core items on the Lion website. Aside from the inconvenience, it can also bring up several questions: What does this mean? Is it going to be in stock soon? What affects stock at Lion? Isn’t this about better planning at Lion Safety?
While it’s always our intention to ensure our clients have fast access to the safety workwear they need, items do fall out of stock. We’ve put together this article to help you understand why this happens and what you can do to avoid it.
Below, we’ve broken this topic down into subsections, so you can jump ahead if you have a specific question:
What does ‘Out of Stock’ mean at Lion Safety?
If you see ‘out of stock’ by any of our items on the portal, or receive notification of an out of stock product on a recent order, the product is:
- a) not in our stock supply
- b) not in stock with our supplier
- c) both
If due to a shortage, your account manager will contact you to discuss other options available.
Why do items become out of stock?
Items can become out of stock for a variety of reasons:
1. Failure to forecast for demand:
If a wholesaler, manufacturer, or distributor has not made accurate plans for their client’s demands, this leads to understocked goods.
2. Excessive demand:
Though unusual, this happens when customers buy unexpectedly large quantities of products. This could be due to sudden change in requirements, a supplier let-down, or any other reason you would need to buy stock in bulk.
For example, earlier this year, we had a prospect working in network distribution whose supplier let them down. They had 500+ employees in dire need of kits with the correct specification of FR AS and Arc flash technical workwear. Some employees were working on-site wearing hi-vis polo shirts and jeans when they needed arc protection. This put some of their projects on the line. Working in high-risk environments associated with the industry without the specialist kit put their employees at risk of injury or death.
Due to the magnitude of the project and potential contract (500+ employees all needing technical workwear) and the urgency of their situation, we had to move fast.
So, we included our clothing manufacturer in discussions with the company. We also took the figures to supply forecasts for the initial order and forecast for the future too. This way, we always have a minimum stock level ready to eradicate delays for this customer in the future.
If you have been let down by a supplier and need bulk stock ordering, get in touch with our sales team today. They can also help you to determine how to forecast your stock needs to avoid future disappointment.
3. Delays in shipping:
Shipping delays happen for many reasons:
- Excessive demand for shipping containers at the port of origin
- Restriction of shipping routes
- Shortage of space on shipping vessels
- Accidents along shipping routes (remember the ship getting stuck in the Suez canal?)
- Excessive delays and quality checks at customs in either/both the country of origin or any country on route
4. Delays in manufacturing
Delays in manufacturing are a result of:
- Fabric shortages
- Labour shortages
- Problems in the manufacturing process (such as; equipment faults, management, component delivery timescale)
These delays can add 2-6 weeks or more to a lead time.
5. Unforeseen circumstances including natural disasters:
Natural disasters are becoming a more frequent occurrence, but this, of course, is not something people can control in the moment! From volcanic eruptions disrupting flight paths, to earthquakes; natural disasters have a huge impact on global transportation, adding weeks (if not months) to delivery schedules.
6. Excessive global demand:
Excessive global demand leads to bidding wars. A bidding war happens when people bid for production space, and the supplier or manufacturer does not cap the price. Bidding wars lead to:
- Unscrupulous supply chain fraud
- Shifted production schedules to accommodate easier manufacturing
- Shortages of raw components resulting in significant delays in manufacturing
This might seem an extreme variable to include, but it does effect the supply chain and your lead times.
War affects the product supply routes in many ways:
- Restrictions on the trade of products
- Restrictions on supply routes for products
- Restrictions on raw materials (due to materials being used for the war effort)
- Prioritisation of goods for war (for both transportation and production)
8. International Trade Policies
Brexit has had a significant effect on the supply of items brought through the EU to the UK.
Some of these impacts have shown themselves in the following forms:
- Transport delays – couriers taking extra time to ensure the correct details for import and export, which leads to longer delivery times. There has also been a shortage of couriers willing to process these imports and exports.
- Transport costs – Due to some of the aforementioned courier shortages, costs fluctuate. This creates delays as manufacturers shop around for pricing.
- Paperwork – Extra time and diligence is required to ensure the correct paperwork for each delivery in and out of the UK. Incorrect paperwork causes significant delays at customs while issues are resolved. This can add several weeks to a lead time.
Are items becoming out of stock more often?
Yes, items are going out of stock more often than in previous years.
With an increase in ‘global incidents,’ including Covid-19, breakouts of war and economic instability, there has been significant supply chain disruption.
Lion counteracts these variables by:
- Forecasting your requirements with you to ensure we have the stock for future demand.
- Having both branded and unbranded stock holding agreements available to you. Book a call with your account manager to find out how to set up a stock holding agreement.
How do “Out of Stock” Items affect me?
Out of stock items will affect you if you are purchasing a product that is already listed as out of stock. If this happens, we will offer you an alternative product. Any alternative that we give you will be to an equivalent or higher specification. Sometimes, there is not a direct alternative, in which case your account manager will work with you to find an option better suited to your requirements.
There will be additional costs if you require an alternative product that is more expensive.
An example of this: if our FRAS Coverall Nordic Design Royal (treated fabric, £81.88) was out of stock, we would suggest our integra.wear FRAS Coverall c/w Stripes Royal (inherent fabric, £124.52) instead. These items are a perfect alternative to one another, as they look almost identical and offer the same protection. The integra.wear one is more expensive due to the inherent fabric, which means it will retain its FRAS properties, where the former does not.
Can I still order an out of stock item?
Yes. You can still order an out of stock item, but, one of two things will happen:
- It will remain on backorder until the stock is available. Usually, this is within 5-10 working days. If the items are coming from overseas (in transit or in production), it could be 12 weeks or more. At this point, your account manager will discuss other options with you, and will look at swapping you to a product that would take days rather than weeks to get to you.
- It may be that the product is discontinued, but it takes time for the supplier to determine if this is going to happen.
If a product is discontinued or has a longer lead time, your account manager will get in touch to discuss alternatives to the product.
What can I do if there are no alternatives available to the product I need?
Some products are unicorns (they are one of a kind items in the market), and in the eventuality that there is no other alternative, your next steps are:
- Speak to your account manager – they are your first port of call and are already familiar with the products you buy and your requirements.
- Discuss a reassessment with your account manager. This would involve reassessing the task or job to decide whether a different product is more suitable for your project. We have in-house subject matter experts to help you with this, so do reach out. If it isn’t your account manager, they will put you in touch with the right person to answer your questions and help you.
Will I have to pay extra for items used to cover items no longer in stock?
If the alternative to your preferred product is more expensive; yes. If there is nothing available of equal specification or quality, we prefer to ‘upgrade’ specification rather than to ‘downgrade’. This is better explained with examples:
If, for example, you needed a V12 Otter shoe (lightweight, metal-free), but we did not have it in stock or anything of equal specification, we would suggest the V12 Bison as an alternative. It is a higher standard, still meeting minimum requirements, as well as offering a higher level of protection with features like; an HRO (heat resistant) IGS (intelligent grip system) sole unit, and manufacturing processes that provide better ergonomic shaping for the foot.
So why not alternate for V12 Rhino, which is similar to the Otter and less expensive?
While the Rhino uses the same sole unit as the Otter, it uses a poorer quality leather and the construction is based on a typical chukka boot, including metal eyelets, which means it is not metal-free and due to its style might not be as comfortable as the Otter.
Therefore, we would consider this a bad match. While it is in a similar price range, we would not suggest this, as it may not meet the required specifications for the job. The Bison is more expensive, but in the absence of the Otter, the Bison is the better option.
We are open to working with you to come to an arrangement on costs. If this is likely to be a long-term change, we would present you with a new business case for an alternate product that would better suit your needs. Don’t worry, items becoming out of stock can be a catalyst for positive change!
Am I guaranteed stock?
Yes, if you are buying from our core stock range.
Our core stock range will always be available to purchase with same or next day delivery options.
Can I cancel an order I’ve already placed if the products were out of stock?
Yes, if you don’t have a binding contract to take the goods or if the goods you ordered are not made-to-order. We understand that situations change, but we need to negotiate this if it is a made-to-order product (something that has been made bespoke for you, and/or is already branded). However, if the item was a custom order but has not actually been made yet due to being out of stock, you would be able to cancel the order.
How can I make sure Lion will have my items in stock?
We will always work with you to determine your needs. A great way to ensure stock is to have a stock agreement. If you have this agreement, we will hold the correct core stock and branded stock to a set of agreed minimums/maximums for a defined duration.
Another way of safeguarding your stock is to choose core stock items that Lion already holds.
What can you do if your items are out of stock:
Discovering that your items are out of stock is frustrating, but we’re here to tell you that there are ways you can move past this and ensure it does not happen.
There are options for you, and this often starts by talking to your account manager to figure out what the best alternative is. Your items can be out of stock for a whole host of reasons, as shown above, but to summarise, your biggest players in the “out of stock” ball game are:
- Failure to forecast for demand
- Excessive demand
- Delays in shipping
- Delays in manufacturing
- Natural disasters/other unforeseen circumstances
- Excessive global demand
- International Trade Policies
As we’ve said, there are things you can do to ensure these factors don’t affect you. If you’re ready to take the next steps, they are:
- Create a stock holding agreement with Lion Safety.
Enquire here for more information.
- Speak to your account manager.
If you need to speak to your account manager about a stock issue, you can book a call with them directly: