With test positivity rates and active COVID hospitalizations declining across the region, many are eager to declare the pandemic over.
Still, many in the landscaping industry are finding that the pandemic is having lasting effects on their field.
Chris Sonnenberg, co-owner of Sonnenberg Landscaping Material & Supplies, said demand for landscaping materials and services provided by his company naturally increases with the first days of spring.
The pandemic has exacerbated that effect, he said.
“Since COVID hit, a lot of people have stayed home and focused on their outdoor living spaces, so there was a lot of demand that caused equipment shortages,” Sonnenberg said.
Just because life has returned to normal for many and fewer are spending all their time at home doesn’t mean landscapers have been relieved of material shortages, Sonnenberg said.
As he and Adam Linnemann, CEO and President of Linnemann Lawn Care and Landscaping, explained, many factors lead to material shortages.
Linnemann said his company has experienced a shortage of everything from retaining wall blocks to weed control fabric.
“The general labor shortage has made it more difficult to produce these products,” Linnemann said. “It’s not that they don’t have enough concrete and gravel to make the block, it’s that the companies don’t have enough manpower to make the product in a timely manner to meet at our request.”
Between this, the shortage of truckers and other transport personnel and essential supplies stuck at ports, the delivery time for many materials is much longer than normal.
“Delivery times that used to be 1-2 days are now 1-3 months,” Sonnenberg said. “It’s just an ongoing battle between suppliers who don’t have the inventory, limited trucking, and (more) just adding cost to everything.”
Linnemann said fertilization services bore much of the price hike.
“Fertilizer costs have increased by about 25 to 30 percent,” Linnemann said. “A combination of that and labor (costs) in general going up for us to keep a good helper has forced us to dramatically increase our prices on our lawn care programs where we go out and fertilize and spray for weeds and all that.”
Sonnenberg said his customers also paid more for his materials and services during the pandemic.
“Last year alone we had vendors increase their prices twice, and then this year we’ve already seen another price increase,” Sonnenberg said. “Unfortunately, we can’t eat that. (If we didn’t raise prices) we wouldn’t be here to sell you rock.
And, with changing prices, quoting has become frustrating for landscapers and clients alike.
“Previously, we would get a price list from our suppliers at this time of year and we could use that price list when citing our work. Now prices change from week to week so we have stayed on top of our suppliers to get an updated price list almost every month or so to ensure we are quoting our work accurately so we don’t waste any time. ‘money,’ Linnemann said.
The pandemic has caused vehicle prices to fluctuate as well, seemingly increasing more and more every minute because their shortage justifies it. This has led many professionals to be reluctant to replace them.
“We typically replace gear every two years and upgrade our gear,” Linnemann said. “Now we have to replace equipment here soon, and I’m trying to hold out as long as possible because I kind of refuse to pay the ridiculous prices for new vehicles right now – if you can even get them.”
Due to the difficulty in finding additional help and the need to increase salaries to motivate the small group of individuals they attract, Sonnenberg and Linnemann manage small but reliable and knowledgeable teams.
This means that someone falling ill could have a huge impact on working times.
“With COVID, it was a bit difficult whenever you had a team member who contracted it and had to be off work for a week or 10 days, regardless of the quarantine period at the time. “said Linnemann. “When you’re trying to run a lean business and…COVID takes a skilled team member you rely on, and then maybe a few months later another gets it, it hurts the production of our work. ”
Sonnenberg said the best thing customers can do to beat the season’s business and materials delivery time is to book labor in advance, because reputable contractors will be booked quickly.
“I would recommend consumers to plan ahead,” Sonnenberg said. “If they’re having someone install their work, make sure they’re licensed, insured, and know what they’re doing, as we’ve had a few issues with bad contractors installing bad work and basically ripping off these owners.”
For more information on Sonnenberg landscaping materials and supplies, visit sonnenberglandscaping.com or call 618-939-9121. To learn more about Linnemann Lawn Care & Landscaping, visit linnemannlawncare.com or call 618-939-4769.