Supply chain issues that started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have lingered, and for business owners like Dave Cochran, it means he had to adapt.

When certain sofas, dressers and chests started to become limited from manufacturers, Cochran, of Dave's Cloquet Mattress & Furniture, said he started looking for similar items that were available.

"We’re just kind of working around it," he said. "I have an online listing I can look at and see what’s available and go, “OK, I can get that.’"

Overall, Cochran said he feels the strategy is working. Some days are slow, while it's hard to keep up on others.

To top it off, most suppliers are starting to catch up, which makes things easier all around. The ones that haven't are working on it.

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Dave Cochran, left, and son Fred Cochran unload a just-delivered sofa from one of their trucks into the back of Dave's Cloquet Mattress & Furniture on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Dave Cochran, left, and son Fred Cochran unload a just-delivered sofa from one of their trucks into the back of Dave's Cloquet Mattress & Furniture on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Take La-Z-Boy, for instance. Cochran said he ordered recliners six months or more in advance because he would take a La-Z-Boy over any other recliner. The company's leaders opened up new factories to alleviate shortages, but they're still having a hard time getting up to speed.

The biggest obstacle Cochran said he's facing now is inflation.

"Prices from the manufacturers are going up every month," Cochran said. "I sell something, I get a new one in and say, ‘That’s not the same price it was before.’ Something has to be passed on to the consumer."

The pandemic started a rush of furniture buying for a variety of reasons. Cochran said customers often say they're spending more time at home and they want to give their living spaces an upgrade.

Dave Cochran double checks a delivery from Ashley Furniture on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Cochran said he has worked around furniture shortages since the COVID-19 pandemic started by purchasing items that are available. 
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Dave Cochran double checks a delivery from Ashley Furniture on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Cochran said he has worked around furniture shortages since the COVID-19 pandemic started by purchasing items that are available. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Dr. Daniel Rust, an associate professor of transportation and logistics management at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said furniture has been in short supply because much of the furniture American consumers purchase comes from China or India.

But furniture isn't the only area where shoppers are seeing limited supply.

Manufacturers are having a hard time getting parts and components for their products. The chip shortage is limiting appliance and vehicle production.

And retailers are having a tough time getting seasonal décor for the holidays, Rust said.

"Much of that (holiday décor) is still in transit — it’s not here yet — so the issue is not having those products on the shelves ready for consumers when they should be," he said.

How long the supply chain backups will last is anyone's guess.

"I’ve heard everything from a matter of months to it could be into 2023," Rust said. "There’s a lot of speculation about when it will let up.

"I think it will let up when demand lets up, and we’re already seeing the major surge of the imports has probably already happened," he said.

In the meantime, shoppers may have to get creative when it comes to gift-giving. Rust said he recommends people shop around, shop local and look for things you normally wouldn't think of.

"Don't be afraid to do something more personal," he said.

He has also heard of people buying gift cards so their loved one can purchase the item they want when it becomes available.

Cochran said he wants customers to know he and his staff are working hard to find people the items they want.

"We're doing the best with what we've got, and we're doing our best to serve our customers," he said.