What is going on with building materials at the moment?


Frustration with building supplies in NZ from Sunnyside polycarbonate roofing

Massive price increases, no availability, ridiculous lead times, stressed companies, terrible delivery service, lost or damaged goods… Why is it so hard to get building materials these days?

Since we’ve been in business for over 50 years, we’ve seen a lot of cycles. If you’re wondering what on earth is going on with the building supplies industry at the moment, this may help.

Now that we specialise in clear roofing and shade, these thoughts are particularly on this part of the industry. Our products aren’t usually used in the first stage of the building process, they’re one of the last things to go on. They’re commonly installed by smaller builders or DIYers, are somewhat seasonal and aren’t as time critical. So luckily we’re in a slightly less stressful part of the market. But it can still be frustrating all the same.

Lack of product availability

Some of our products are from suppliers overseas, some are from suppliers in NZ. We’ve been fairly lucky and haven’t had too many product lines out of stock. With the ones that have been, we generally have a similar alternative that is suitable. The lack of product availability is usually due to sudden increased demand, a lack of raw materials for the product (even just one or two key components), or a lack of staff to manufacture it. Most suppliers are now holding more stock to combat this.

Supplier or manufacturer staff issues

This is a big one. There are all sorts of issues: staff isolating, burnout, the great resignation, early retirement, staff starting to move overseas for higher wages etc. We have a good relationship with our suppliers so we’re generally aware of issues before they start to affect us too much. But we can’t control what they do about their staff. If there are issues with one supplier, often there are no other options for that product, or the other suppliers that are available are in an even worse position. We’ve actually taken on more staff to take up the slack.

Shipping issues to NZ

Shipping is incredibly disrupted at the moment, although it does look like it’s getting better again. There are a lack of ships, containers, staff, port space and more. Lead times are very far out, the shipping cost has increased, some up to five times more. Our suppliers and us are generally stocking more products to try and mitigate the shipping issues.

Transport or carrier issues

Freight companies within NZ are dealing with massive volumes. More and more people are ordering online and getting delivery. There are also the same staff issues as with suppliers, and a general lack of care from the staff that are left. This is a difficult one to solve, but we haven’t been affected too much on our standard routes, only one the out of the way places. We’re also delivering more ourselves to ensure that goods arrive intact and in a timely fashion.

Unpredictable demand surges

Due to the lockdowns (which look to be over) there were massive surges and then lulls in demand for products. This makes it very difficult to plan for. This is on top of the general increase in demand over the last couple of years.

Lack of communication from suppliers and transport companies

This is mainly due to lack of staff. If they’re not letting us know where things are at, we have to chase them up. Then they usually have to look into it and get back to us, as they have to chase up their drivers/contractors etc. This massively increases the communication volume and administrative burden for everybody. So while our orders may not be increasing, the amount of time we spend on each order has increased significantly. This means communication can be slower than usual, leading to more back and forth enquiries to deal with. It’s a vicious cycle.

But it’s not all bad!

Reading through all of this you may wonder whether it’s even worth doing anything. Don’t despair! We successfully deliver thousands of orders a year. At the moment things are a little more difficult, and sometimes take longer than usual. There are lots of issues outside of our control. But it’s still getting done. Here is what we’re doing to make it happen:

  • We always respond to every email, phone call or voicemail. Over this time email is by far the best way to communicate with us. It saves things getting missed, and it stays in our inbox until it’s resolved. And we can easily look back on what’s been discussed.
  • We do our best to keep our website updated with the correct prices and any stock issues.
  • While many companies don’t appear to be looking after their staff, we try our best at Sunnyside. We already had a flexible business before COVID, now we’re even more flexible. If we look after our staff, they’ll look after you, the customer.
  • If something you ordered can’t be supplied for whatever reason, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and arrange a suitable alternative or a full refund.
  • We suggest you don’t book any installers until you have the actual product in hand and have confirmed it’s correct.
  • Feel free to check the status of your order with us. Sometimes we’ll get a confirmation from our supplier/carrier that it has been delivered, but it hasn’t. And we don’t know this until the customer follows up with us.

So keep planning those projects, we’re here to help. Despite the industry difficulties, we’ll make it work. And once it’s complete, you’ll be able to enjoy that new outdoor space for years to come!

Kurt and the Sunnyside team