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Small freezers in short supply

Freezers are a hot commodity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and an expert said it's unlikely supply chains will catch up anytime soon.

COLORADO, USA — Freezers have been a hot commodity during the COVID-19 pandemic, 

An article in USA Today says retailers are still struggling to stock them, and that they sell out of them almost as soon as they do get them.

"It's not surprising, because freezers are something people don't buy with a lot of frequency," said Professor Dawn Thilmany, co-director of the Colorado State University's (CSU) Regional Economic Development Institute. "When all of sudden there's a surge like this, it's not like food or masks when we can start creating new ones in four weeks."

Thilmany said that's not likely to change anytime soon. China supplies a lot of the raw materials for freezers, and supply chains are still shaky.

"What we didn't realize was...how many of our sectors had become really dependent on China providing part of their supply chain," Thilmany said. "And that was pre-COVID, because of choices we made in our trade negotiations, which is a whole other topic. So that's part of the reason you can't see a very quick response in these manufacturers of appliances, and it's not all due to COVID. It's because of a whole lot of things. So I don't see a ton more freezers coming online very fast."

The smaller chest freezers, those about 7 cubic feet in size, are very affordable. They cost from about $230 to $250, and can last years with very little care.

They run on about $30 worth of electricity a year and can hold a mountain of food. That's why, Thilmany said, they have become the darling of the pandemic for those households looking to store a lot of those frozen instant meals that are now among the top sellers in the grocery. 

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Credit: KUSA

"Who knew freezers were going to be the new waiting list of 2020?" Thilmany said. "I don't think you're going to see that demand falter anytime between now and whenever COVID decides to resolve itself."

And if your old freezer dies, and you are thinking maybe you can repair it instead of waiting on a new one, Thilmany said chances are, that's not going to work. The little appliances are essentially disposable. 

Credit: KUSA

"They were never meant to last very long," Thilmany said. "Repair shops have really kind of gone out of favor because people tended to upgrade instead of fix. It's hard to find repair parts and that's not going to be a solution for people whose current freezer isn't working. Hopefully, eventually, we'll have manufacturing plants catch up to this new demand."

Credit: KUSA

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