By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
and NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Building supply merchants yesterday said they were “overwhelmed” by the post-Matthew sales rush, as they warned Bahamians to brace for price increases on key restoration materials.
Several companies contacted by Tribune Business yesterday indicated that they were out of shingles, plywood or both. Adam Darville, Pinder Enterprises’ general manager, said there were “literally hundreds of people” in its Prince Charles Drive store, forcing management to halt operations for 20 minutes to give staff time to rest.
“Business is pretty robust to say the least,” he told Tribune Business. “We have literally hundreds of people in here. We’re being overwhelmed right now.
“We still have quite a lot of shingles left because we are the biggest shingles supplier, so I don’t see us running out any time soon. Some of the colours might not be what people want, but as far as shingles are concerned we have quite a lot still in stock.”
Mr Darville, though, acknowledged that plywood supplies are a concern. “I have plywood on the way,” he said. “Unfortunately, with the storm hitting Florida, I didn’t get as much as I wanted to get, but I got some nonetheless. The prices have gone up because they have their own problems.”
He explained: “They boarded up just like we did, so plywood supplies are very short right now, so it’s supply and demand. People need it and they are going to have to pay. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just supply and demand.
“I don’t think it would have been as bad if it hadn’t hit Florida. They’re going to take care of themselves first, and that’s why I wasn’t able to really get what I wanted to get. Luckily we buy a lot of plywood, and I was able to use that as a bargaining chip to get a few trailers.”
The damage inflicted by Hurricane Matthew on the south-eastern US, particularly Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, has ignited a rebuilding and repair drive that is just as frenetic as the Bahamas’s own.
With thousands more homes and businesses in the US in need of restoration, the Bahamas could experience a building materials shortage, and subsequent price hikes, as the likes of shingles and plywood are diverted for US usage.
Michael Maura, chief executive of Arawak Port Development Company (APD), the Nassau Container Port operator, yesterday backed up Mr Darville’s concerns.
While vessel calls at the Arawak Cay-based port indicated that Florida’s key ports in Miami and Jacksonville were operating normally, Mr Maura said the devastation inflicted by Matthew in the US meant there would be pressures on the logistics and supply chains used by Bahamian merchants.
“The biggest issue we have going forward is a competition for building materials because of the number of south-east homes that are competing for the same sheet of plywood, shingles and lumber,” Mr Maura told Tribune Business.
“I would hope that the US authorities are watching very carefully as prices increase, as demand spikes and supply stays constant. We have to be mindful that plywood and lumber are commodities, so the prices can change and fluctuate frequently.”
When contacted yesterday, a City Lumber employee indicated that the company was already out of the regular shingles. “We got sold out; only the architectural ones are left,” Tribune Business was told.
Tops Lumber, another building supply firm, told Tribune Business it had now sold out of shingles, plywood and felt.