The COVID pandemic has raised some interesting challenges for many businesses.
At the start of the pandemic, people were asked to stay home. Many were laid off. Optics retailers and suppliers believed we would be experiencing recession-level sales. The opposite is true.
Since April 2020, astronomy and bird watching has been an extremely popular way for people to pass the time. We've seen an explosion of new entrants looking to acquire their first telescope to begin their astronomical adventure, leading to an incredible increase in demand for equipment, the likes we've never seen before.
Manufacturers usually have enough buffer and spare capacity to accommodate small spikes in demand. Unfortunately the dramatic increase in demand coupled with supply-chain issues has led to a global shortage of telescope equipment.
Severe disruptions such as shortages of raw materials, freight, port capacity, and labour have contributed to the shortage of finished goods.
Retailers like Focus Scientific have been adding people to ever-growing backorder lists for products. Wait times have been increasing. It started with 2 to 4 month backorders, Now we're seeing some items backordered up-to 8 months, and other products are 12 months or longer.
Most people elect to get on a waiting list, as the desire to get a telescope is strong. A lot of people are calling all over North America to see if they can something in stock, with little luck. The supply-demand challenges are expected to last another 3 years minimum, until the supply-demand ratio returns to pre-pandemic levels.
It may sound like doom and gloom, but the fact that there are so many people interested in learning about the world around them is a great thing. It will no doubt have interesting spin-off effects such as increased awareness of the perils of light pollution, and increasing demand and availability for dark-sky preserves.