How to Navigate Continued Inventory Shortages in the Event Industry

Supply line backlogs and inventory shortages continue to trouble the events industry, which comes as no surprise to professionals who have navigated the highs and lows of the past two years. But the creatives in our industry are known for their innovative solutions and problem-solving skills, and event experts are finding ways to overcome current sourcing obstacles while protecting their bottom line and keeping clients happy.

While the events industry is known for aesthetics and design, at its core is a reliance on strategic planning and calculated decision-making. So if market challenges are causing concern, take note of these tips to handle any speed bumps that lie ahead.

Plan ahead by extending your timeline

Timing is everything in the events industry, so it’s especially frustrating when shipping delays are out of your control. So, as Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss recommends, prepare for the worst and plan accordingly.

“The name of the game is to plan ahead and be sure to have contingencies in place,” Sheils assures.“Shipping delays are affecting every industry, including the wedding and event industry. Expect your shipments to be delayed, and order extra!”

Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events agrees, adding that “it’s important to finalize design plans early so orders can be expedited quickly, alerting you if there is any shortage while there is still time to adjust. This is especially true for specialty rental or decor items, many of which ship from overseas and are stuck at a port on one side of the ocean.

”Padding your planning timeline by several weeks (or months) ensures you have enough time to receive your shipments or, in a worst-case scenario, find an alternative solution.

Be prepared to offer alternatives

Speaking of alternatives, it’s more important than ever to have backup plans for every detail that relies on the supply chain. Otherwise, you may end up with disappointed clients—even if the circumstances are beyond your control.

“Do your research and see what other options are out there,” encourages Monika Kreinberg of Furever Us – Wedding Pet Care. “Companies will often be able to give you a choice of materials; for example, consider wood instead of acrylic or vice versa. Consider becoming a little creative and doing certain things yourself. You might enjoy the process and be very proud of your work afterward.”

And while timely communication with clients is key, Laura Maddox of Magnolia Celebrates suggests “finding the solution before presenting the problem to the client.”

Maddox offers an example, adding: “Your vases broke at last week’s wedding, and now you don’t have enough for this week’s wedding? Provide solutions when you give the client the issue as well. For example, “I’m so sorry, but we have searched everywhere and cannot find the vessels you wanted for your wedding, and ours have broken. However, we do have these two other options that are both similar. Which would you prefer?” rather than just giving the issue to the client.”

While clients may feel a bit let down regardless, presenting alternative solutions demonstrates your attentiveness and care for their celebration.

Opt for local whenever possible

If shipping delays and shortages are holding you back, consider tapping into your local supply network to cut down on delivery times and build your network.

“During the pandemic, local farmers became a big resource for consumers,” explains Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club and Events. “Work with them and establish good relationships. Embrace “farm fresh” as often as you can.”

In addition to mitigating delays, this approach is also client-friendly as Mitsaelides notes. “Not only is it good for the planet, but today’s couples also place a premium on sustainability and locally-sourced food,” he says. “For non-perishable items, buy in bulk whenever possible. And extend the shelf life of goods with strong preservation methods.”

If you’re not sure where to start, ask for referrals from fellow event professionals in your area so you can find the best suppliers around.

Strengthen your existing network

The events industry is stronger when we come together and support one another, so look to your local network for help navigating difficult times.

“Event planners must ensure contacts at their favorite venues, and catering companies remain,” says Betsy Scott of Hudson Valley Weddings at The Hill. “Re-establish those connections and continue to make new ones. When working with hospitality partners, give plenty of advance notice so they can adequately staff an event.”

Strong relationships make for effective collaboration, which is best for you, your creative partners, and your shared clients. Teamwork is always the answer!

Adjust your pricing accordingly

With rising costs from inflation, most event professionals are realizing they must raise prices to accommodate market fluctuations. Demand is high and supply is low, so it’s reasonable to increase your rates to safeguard your profit margins.

“Many wedding businesses are mobile, so gas is a huge concern,” affirms Steve Feinberg of Bunn DJ Company-San Diego. “Consider adding a fuel surcharge to your contract to cover price increases.”

But hiking up your rates may leave clients unhappy, so Feinberg offers a suggestion to counter any disappointment. “If you’re in a position to include a value-added service that doesn’t impact your bottom line, provide it to your client,” he says. “It shows good faith and understanding in these uncertain times.”

Pricing changes are never easy to discuss, but remain transparent with clients and explain how shortages and inflation have impacted your pricing. We are all personally impacted by these challenges, so it should come as no surprise to them that the events industry is affected.

Practice patience in the face of uncertainty

There are many things outside of our control right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t master your emotions when unexpected situations arise.

“Everyone needs to exercise a little bit of patience and understanding,” encourages Juls Sharpley of Bubbles & Bowties. “We’re all navigating these new, post-pandemic waters together. I think it’s also important to recognize that everyone is working as hard and fast as possible to finish projects, iron out logistics, etc.”

On a similar note, it’s vital to practice patience with clients as well. Many will watch their plan change before their eyes, so be sure to show empathy and understanding as they accept the reality of the situation.

“Having patience for frustrated clients is also a must,” reminds Megan Estrada of NSWE Events.“We are all navigating the new pricing increases in everything from groceries to gas to event venues, and that is likely to disappoint some clients when they realize that their original budget won’t be able to go as far as they originally anticipated.”

As event professionals, educating clients is part of the job. Listen to their concerns, explain the reasoning behind changes, and be prepared to offer cost-effective solutions to help them process and move forward as planned.

The good news is that the current hardships are temporary. The market will always stabilize eventually, so stay on course and be flexible until the economy balances out.

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Author: Carmen Bodziak

Carmen Bodziak has been on the marketing team at Goodshuffle since 2019 and got into the business because of her passion for empowering business owners through technology. She loves connecting with the events industry both virtually and in-person, so say hi if you see her at a trade show! Outside of Goodshuffle, she loves to travel and spend time outdoors.