The outdoor industry is experiencing a watershed moment in market growth and expansion. The boating industry, a niche of the outdoor industry, has been hustling triple time to meet the ever growing customer demand. On top of increased demand, up river logjams like shipping slow downs and supply shortages are still plaguing fulfillment as the economy rebounds from shutdowns in the early pandemic days. Sawyer has not been immune to the challenges of recent complex global events have brought to putting products in the hands of loyal customers.
“Sawyer is producing the most amount of product that we have ever produced in the history of the company, ever,” notes owner/operator and CEO Zac Kauffman. “Orders have increased, the volume has increased, and it hasn’t stopped. We are building inventory and products around the clock, all the time and it’s just not enough to where we have tons of stock.”
A big question Sawyer is asking: How much of this surge in customer base will be retained in the long run? “We aren’t able to just flip a switch and increase our output to 400% more than what it was pre-pandemic. We have been hiring and training staff for two years, but we are still playing catchup.”
A big question customers are asking: “When is X item going to be in stock?” The answer is complex, and here’s why…
Sawyer is a manufacturer and not a warehouse so all our products require assembly time
Sawyer’s ability to create highly desirable, built-to-order customized paddles and oars is an extra obstacle to navigate in product delivery. One of the most iconic and specialized products Sawyer produces are oars carved and shaped on-site from ash and Douglas fir, in Southern Oregon at our manufacturing facility and headquarters. Assembly options for these oars like handle styles, blade shape and rope wrap specifications all require unique components that must first be in-stock before assembly can occur. Theoretically, if the options you choose are in stock (fingers crossed), then those components will still typically take several processes to come to completion.
Kauffman explains, “Sawyer walks a line of customization with our products. Our paddles and oars are handcrafted, not created in mass like pez dispensers. Shaping wood, making something by hand along with other assembly requires artistic nuance. There are many hands that touch all aspects of our paddles and oars during assembly. Even something that seems as simple as an MXS oar shaft requires a lot of hands.”
At the moment, fulfillment times on various Sawyer products range from 2 to 8 weeks. To break this down, it takes 2-4 weeks for your order to enter the queue. In other words there is a lag time for your order to be received, read and put through to the production floor. If assembly can be done the day it hits the production floor, the process starts to speed up. If the order is more complex like MXS oar shafts with custom patterns and counter balance, DyneLite PRO Oar Blades, Gilman Grips and Karmik re-connect gear labels (which must be fiber-glassed into the item), then the fulfillment process will take longer.
Though delayed product delivery is the new normal (throughout the outdoor industry and beyond), here’s a cheat sheet you can use to scout and negotiate product delays when ordering with Sawyer.
Plan ahead and get in the queue
With multi-week delivery times for the foreseeable future, it’s best to map out your gear budget and needs upwards of 8 weeks in advance. To ensure you will have the paddles and oars you need for commercial trips, fishing expeditions and private boating; order even earlier. Start to think of the process of ordering oars like the permit system. Get organized. Have all your information and dates ready and get in the queue way in advance. The earlier you place your order, the better your odds are of receiving the gear you need in time for the river trips you want to go on. The fulfillment process doesn’t start until you press the button and order.
Sawyer Station in Gold Hill, Oregon is Sawyer’s brick and mortar flagship store. Housed at Sawyer Station is the Quick Ship order tool which ships customers turn-key items as quickly as possible, typically within 5-10 days. Staples like DyneLite Oar Blades, DuraMax Oar Blades, convertible oar rights, rubber oar stops are available here. Disclaimer: Products available through Quick Ship are always changing and based on the surplus that we are able to maintain in-house.
The more basic the order you place, the faster Sawyer can get it into your hands. When you call to consult staff or email about your order, ask what components are easiest to get in stock (i.e. Polecat and MXS Oar Shafts vs. SquareTops) and what oar options are the simplest to assemble. Remember, the more custom and specialized your order, the longer it will take to fulfill it.
Buy direct from a dealer o(a)r Sawyer Station
Dealers are stocked up, sometimes even more so than Sawyer home-base is. Although the exact product with all the customizations you want may not be available on any given retail floor, at a local dealer or at Sawyer Station, there are still plenty of great products that will more than get the job done. Maybe the full carbon wrap on the SquareTops isn’t in stock but a hybrid carbon and fiberglass shaft could be. Weigh the options and decide how big a difference these minor shifts are so that you can walk out with your oars in hand, same day. Use Sawyer’s Dealer Locator tool to help!
Be patient with sales representatives, paddle shops and dealers
The real key to obtaining your dream oar setup as quickly as possible is sweet talking your sales rep. Be as nice as you can to the front line staff fielding inquiries. They are doing the best they can to get you the goods you want. Plus, you never know when you’ll need all that banked river karma, so keep adding to the account!
We know how frustrating it can be waiting for a shiny set of custom Sawyer oars for your raft or drift boat. Sawyer has added extra shifts, we have crews working on the weekends, we’ve also increased our shipping capacity. Use the cheat sheet recommendations and trust that Sawyer is doing everything in our power to uphold our reputation for hand crafting the best paddles and oars, industry wide. After all, like they always say, the best things are worth waiting for.