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Design. Tile. And Supply Chains?

photo: Guillaume Bolduc

Why your tile might not arrive on time: it’s all about supply chains. 

“Please anticipate delays due to impacts on the global supply chain.” 


It’s a little note you’ve seen plastered to the top of our website. We bet you’ve seen it on others, as well. And you may be wondering how—and to what extent—it will impact your order. 


Here’s why. 


  1. It’s not just us, it’s everyone, and it’s due to what the New York Times has dubbed The Great Supply Chain Crisis
  2. We’re not a design business or a tile business. We are a people business. As an artisan tile company, what we do begins and ends with people, and COVID-19’s lingering impacts particularly affect what we do. 
  3. Small, independent, creative businesses don’t always have the options that large companies do. But while they may have scale, we’re scrappy and know how to scramble. 
  4. Always remember: every tile is a miracle. It’s not just the interplay of fire and glaze and earth: every tile ultimately passes through hundreds of hands to get to our clients homes and spaces. But it will get to you, even if it takes a little longer. It’s a reason to celebrate once you do get your tile–and even before.  

Read more about what it takes to bring tile into your spaces and your lives. 

 


It’s not just us: it’s everyone

Whether it is foam for sofas; semiconductors for cars, phones, stoves, and everything else; aluminum containers for pet food; a scarcity of truck drivers–or even pallets for shipping tile–shortages and supply chain challenges are affecting every industry. And when you put that against increased demand for all those people nesting...it adds up to delays.


It begins with the artisans–the heart of our business

We’re not just a design or tile business, we are a people business. We rely 100% on the health and the talent of skilled artisans who craft our tile, and on the shippers and truckers and distribution teams that get it to us.


Since the tile our customers purchase is produced around the world, we’re dealing with countries with varying rates of pandemic intensity and vaccination and shutdowns, and that obviously affects our ability to get the tile into our warehouses and into our clients’ homes and spaces. 

 photo: Han Chenxu

Supply chain issues are particularly tough for small, artisan-based businesses

While some companies mass produce or are large enough to carry vast inventories, companies like clé–small companies that sell handcrafted products–face an even greater challenge. 


Next, we’re competing for space on those container ships with the big companies. While we have great relationships with shippers, and a top-notch in-house logistics and supply chain team (the best in the business, in our opinion), it’s a significant challenge for us. 


A more subtle issue is that small companies like ours also manage their inventories pretty carefully. Managing those inventories allows us to keep our costs–and thus the costs to our clients and customers–lower than they would be otherwise.


Finally we can't forget the shipping industry who make the last leg of the journey to bring your delivery to you, curbside. The domestic shipping industry is facing unprecedented demand with an ongoing labor shortage. Your  shipment is taking longer to get to you, even if you are not far from our warehouse. We are grateful for your patience and understanding of this complex predicament and thank you for bearing with us.

 


The bottom line

None of this is meant as an excuse, but it does explain why sometimes it seems that lead times are long, tile is delayed, or that stock levels are low. 


At clé, we have a saying: “Every tile is a miracle”. Over the last year, it’s become clear to us all that it’s not just about the miraculous interplay of fire and glaze and earth: it’s about the fact that every tile ultimately passes through hundreds of hands to get to our clients homes and spaces. 


It’s an intricate chain with multiple points of failure, but we also see it as a way to remind ourselves–daily–that we are to be part of a powerful, optimistic, and talented web of humanity and nature that sometimes throws us curveballs, but which ultimately provides us with beauty, bounty, and hope. 


We understand how frustrating this can all be, but when we say your tile order may be delayed, please know that this is way bigger than us. But through the ups and downs of this period, there’s one thought that keeps us going: we will get through this, together. 

 






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