Cup of Joe


A Summer Like No Other

In the world of employee mobility, the summer season has always brought the sound of warning bells. In 2021, COVID-19 has only amplified these issues. While current concerns are mainly directed in the area of household goods shipping, the impact of the pandemic doesn't stop there. More than ever, it is the nature of our human-to-human connections that will see us through. 

21 June 2021

Greetings from a rather warm Phoenix, Arizona.  The summer heat has reached its full effect here in the southwestern region of the United States.  As I write, the high temperature is forecasted to be 117 degrees today (47 Celsius)!  Though, as we desert-dwellers like to proclaim, “It’s a DRY heat!”

While it’s fun to joke about the high temps impacting the southwest, this summer-season in the world of employee mobility is no laughing matter.  Over the past decade and with increasing intensity, the prelude to summer has brought the sound of warning bells.  Industry experts have been expressing various levels of concern, mainly directed in the area of household goods shipping, in the lead-up to each coming summer.  The moving industry has long experienced a variety of dynamics that have steadily brought about labor shortages and a shrinking level of capacity (trucks and drivers). 

It may not come as a surprise for you to learn that Covid has only amplified the issues facing movers and their clients.  The pandemic caused companies to permanently shut-down their operations.  Many decreased the size of their fleets and the industry as a whole saw a mass exodus of drivers, as well as packing/unpacking crews who saw retirement as a viable option, or, in pursuit of a more reliable paycheck, left the industry altogether.  

For moves that involve ocean shipping, here too we see historic challenges in the form of dramatic reductions in capacity and greatly extended shipping timeframes as a result of record delays at ports around the world. 

The impact of the pandemic didn’t stop at the doors of the moving industry, as the temporary corporate housing market was likewise forced to adjust.  And similar to the moving industry, capacity (number of available apartments) were taken out of the system, leaving an historically low supply.

Meanwhile, the residential real estate market has remained in a turbo-boosted state, mainly powered by historically low interest rates, but also fueled by record low levels of supply. In particular, relocating employees in the United States whom might be interested in purchasing a new home are facing dramatic shortages of available homes.  In many locations across the country, homes that would normally show up on the multiple listing service (MLS), never actually make it as they are sold before the listing agent can place it on the MLS!  Home values have been sky-rocketing to record levels across America, creating affordability concerns and causing further frustration. 

With extremely large numbers of moves on-hold since the pandemic began that are now springing into action, the 2021 summer-season has all the makings for being “that” summer, which, for nearly a decade, we have been warned.    

So what does all of this mean to those of us tasked with relocating corporate employees domestically and around the world?  Well, in all my 35+ years in our industry, I have never seen such a broad set of dramatic conditions at-play at the same time. There are no easy answers and no quick fixes. As the summer wears on, the severity of the aforementioned challenges will steadily decrease.  However, that is little comfort to anyone forced to relocate in the months of June, July and early-mid August.  At Bristol, our mission to Connect with, versus control people, continues to pay widespread and important dividends. 

Over the years, the manner in which we source, select and sustain supplier-partner relationships has always created meaningful relationship differentiation, leading to smoother sailing throughout the year and particularly during the hectic days of summer.  Even now, in these wild, Covid-spiked days, Bristol and our corporate clients are benefiting from the full nature of our unique methods of engagement. Our clients also benefit from Bristol’s unaffiliated position, allowing us to curate a global supplier-partner network comprised of organizations we know to be a cultural match, and possess the proven ability to produce desired outcomes time and time again. 

Patience... Lead-Time... Flexibility.  In response to the heretofore unseen conditions, we can all count on more adaptation and innovation across the mobility industry in the days ahead.  For now and for the sake of relocating employees and their families, patience spread across the entire moving cycle will be imperative. Importantly, as much lead-time and flexibility as can be provided by corporate clients and their relocating employees, will be crucial. 

Relationships matter and at times like this, they will be tested… frequently!  I am therefore comforted and encouraged by the relationships Bristol has forged with all our corporate clients and our worldwide network of supplier-partners.  Capacity will not magically appear. Therefore, more than ever, it is the nature of our human to human connections that will see us through.  At Bristol, we remain committed to delivering the best possible experiences…even in the midst of such immense challenge.  

Our entire team extends a warm and deep sense of gratitude and appreciation to our global network of supplier-partners, who, more now than ever, are delivering heroic performances.

I wish all of you a summer that is as stress-free as possible.  Stay well and if like me, you happen to dwell in the southwest, STAY COOL!



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