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Baby gear companies are taking matters into their own hands amid shortage of essential items

With baby gear, most consumers have a rough “due date” for when they’ll need an item and can plan months ahead. But the unexpected is urgent.

Supply chain issues are affecting nearly every industry as the pandemic continues to cause manufacturing slowdowns, port congestion and delivery delays — and baby gear like strollers and car seats is no exception. 

While most consumers have a rough “due date” for when they’ll need items for their newborn and can plan ahead, anything unexpected can happen — making availability of essential products that much more crucial.

“Strollers, car seats, they aren’t optional. These are products that customers literally cannot wait to buy when they need them,” said Amy Venzke, owner of Strolleria, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based baby gear store with an online presence.

Many of these items take on additional importance to consumers because they’re essential to keeping a baby safe and alive.

To minimize stress for consumers, baby gear retailers like Strolleria and Pish Posh Baby in Lakewood, New Jersey, are encouraging customers to do their research well in advance and buy ahead whenever they can. They’ve also changed their operations to combat supply chain issues. 

Pish Posh Baby revamped its website to include an out-of-stock notification feature, so parents can be alerted as soon as something is available. It also takes some work off their plates because they don’t have to keep returning to a website to check for a product, according to Pish Posh Baby COO Charlie Birnbaum. 

Pish Posh Baby has also been traveling to China to import products directly, which has helped cut out additional delays caused by manufacturers needing to store items in warehouses before releasing them to retailers.

Strolleria started offering customers the ability to preorder gear. These preorders aren’t for releases of new models; they’re for current models of strollers and car seats that are backordered. 

“Instead of saying that this car seat isn’t available at all, we’re now offering presales, and customers are buying items with an expected future ship date,” Venzke told NBC News. “We don’t think customers want to be in a position of uncertainty.”

Inventory will be fine and then basic items will be unavailable. It won’t just be an accessory; it’ll be a brand’s core item.

Her company has been monitoring global supply chains more closely and has been more proactive about forecasting availability and making purchases based on inventory reports from brands. Strolleria has also been stocking up its warehouse to prepare for future backorders, ordering gear for the next three to four months versus for just the next month. 

But there are still issues. 

“Inventory will be fine and then basic items will be unavailable,” Birnbaum said. “It won’t just be an accessory; it’ll be a brand’s core item.”

Birnbaum said even though some companies stopped manufacturing certain items to focus on their key offerings, there are still times when a season-specific item such as a travel stroller will be unavailable for so long it misses its intended season. He said he anticipates that the issues customers faced with finding travel strollers over the summer will repeat themselves with stroller footmuffs this winter.

Among the products in short supply are the BabyZen Yoyo stroller and the Doona stroller that collapses into a car seat, Birnbaum said. Some customers are using social media to try to track down the most scarce items. 

While there may not be a shortage of strollers or car seats in the same way that diapers or toilet paper were in short supply earlier in the pandemic, baby gear is unique because it can be an emotional purchase. Many of these items take on additional importance to consumers because they’re essential to keeping a baby safe and alive — and brands with better safety ratings are more desirable than others. 

“The entire experience of expecting a baby is overwhelming,” Venzke said. “[Parents] put in hours and days of research to find the perfect stroller and can get their heart set on one, so it’s very stressful and disappointing when it isn’t available.”