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Weather woes: Fans, air-con units in short supply but retailers expect stocks to return in coming months

SINGAPORE — After their air-conditioning units broke down last Saturday (May 28), Ms Wong and her husband's top priority was to secure new ones as soon as possible, as they found the sweltering heat unbearable. 

Ms Catherine Low from Etronin Home Appliances showing a few models of fans sold at her shop.

Ms Catherine Low from Etronin Home Appliances showing a few models of fans sold at her shop.

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  • ​​​​The global shortage of semiconductors and appliance parts has caused stock shortages of home appliances
  • These involve popular products such as KDK fans, Mitsubishi air-conditioners and Samsung washing machines
  • To manage this, retailers are suggesting alternative brands and models to customers  
  • They say that the stock situation should improve over the next few months

SINGAPORE — After their air-conditioning units broke down last Saturday (May 28), Ms Wong and her husband's top priority was to secure new ones as soon as possible, as they found the sweltering heat unbearable. 

Ms Wong, who lives in a four-room Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat with her husband and child, said that they switched on their air-conditioners every evening “without fail”. 

“Now that we don’t have an air-con, it’s terribly hot,” the 37-year-old, who declined to give her full name, said. 

Ms Wong and her husband were initially eyeing a Mitsubishi air-conditioner but after hearing that it was out of stock and new units would come in only around August, they scrapped the idea and decided to go for their second choice — a Daikin air-con.

But the family is still waiting for their air-conditioner, as the salesperson had provided the wrong date of delivery. 

With the mercury hitting record levels, it is no surprise that more Singaporeans are looking to buy fans and air-conditioners for their homes. However, retailers say there is a wait of up to three months for popular brands of these appliances, due to the global shortage of semiconductors and appliance parts.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong had warned in a Budget debate in February that the Russian-Ukraine war may have an impact on the semiconductor industry and the technology goods market. 

The lockdowns in China due to its zero-Covid approach also disrupted semiconductor production operations, with suppliers such as Foxconn being hit by the stoppage of work in mid-March, news agency Reuters reported.

This leaves retailers here grappling with the shortage of home appliance stock and many have had to suggest alternatives to their customers, or prioritise who receives their purchases first. 

The stock shortages are affecting the more popular makes such as KDK fans, Mitsubishi air-conditioners and Samsung washing machines, retailers told TODAY.

PROVIDING ALTERNATIVES

Ms Catherine Low, who runs Etronin Home Appliances in Tampines, said that the store receives around 100 orders of KDK fans every month but receives only around 20 to 30 units from their supplier. 

To manage the issue, she checks with her customers to see who needs the fans more urgently and then prioritises who receives them first. 

Mr Francis Lim, the director of Best City Electrical and Furniture, said that his store is "not so heavily affected" as they offer several brands and are able to suggest alternatives to their customers. 

“I would say 99 per cent of our customers would just change to another brand or model because it’s just not practical to wait,” the 41-year-old said. 

“If a customer’s washing machine spoils, I don't think they will use a washing board for three months just to wait for a specific brand. Luckily most of my customers are quite understanding and will change to another model.” 

However, from his experience, those who insisted on a particular model faced waiting times of "as short as two weeks and as long as three months", he said.

Mr Jayson Teh, 34, the managing partner of New City Electrical, noted that the shortage has been exacerbated by the recent heatwave, which has caused demand for fans and air-conditioners to shoot up.

Sales for portable air-conditioning units have gone up by 200 to 300 per cent and Mr Teh is selling 30 to 40 fans per day now, compared to just 10 per day before May. 

Ms Delci Khoo is another customer who decided to switch her home appliance purchase to another model, after finding out that the Samsung washing machine she wanted was out of stock. 

The 49-year-old recently moved into a five-room HDB flat and had ordered all of her home appliances, excluding her air-con, from a neighbourhood appliance store in Circuit Road. 

“I wanted to try other sellers but it was too much of a hassle managing multiple sellers and deliveries. So I decided to just change the model and get it from the same place,” Ms Khoo said.

'SHORTAGE SHOULD BE RESOLVED SOON'

In an explainer published by TODAY in March, experts predicted that the semiconductor shortage “would last for at least another one to two years due to the evolving coronavirus strains causing Covid-19”. 

However, retailers now believe that the outlook is more positive.

“Most chips are from Shanghai and since it has opened up now, the issues should be resolved soon,” Mr Lim said. 

Agreeing, Mr Teh said: “The shortage should improve over the next few months as manufacturers are sourcing alternative suppliers for materials.”

However, he warned that prices for home appliances are expected to increase over the next few months as manufacturers start competing for raw materials.

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semiconductor aircon weather

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