Two years ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic made its first impact the state of Oklahoma, Andy Mahbubani had to temporarily shut down his family's clothing store.
GQ Fashions Fine Menswear spent the entire month of April 2020 temporarily closed because of the pandemic and Gov. Kevin Stitt's Safer at Home policy that shuttered nonessential business.
When he reopened, Mahbubani worried that the business wouldn't have the same level of success as before the shutdown; the previous two years saw double-digit growth, but GQ Fashions' business model relies heavily on dressing its customers for events like weddings, prom and church services. The pandemic struck the events industry just as hard, or even harder, than the restaurant business.
But two years later, the store at NW 23 and Interstate 44 is still open. And according to Mahbubani, it's been busy.
"We've seen an uptick in terms of people going back to events, going to parties, weddings, people are starting to get married again. So yeah, we're doing quite well actually," he said.
It took a few months for business to pick back up as people felt more comfortable with large gatherings.
Luckily for Mahbubani, GQ Fashions never had the staffing issues that other businesses experienced during 2020 and 2021. But one problem he's run into consistently is one that's being felt across the world — delays in the supply chain.
China exported almost $40 billion worth of textiles to the United States before the pandemic; manufacturers there often supply the brands found in GQ Fashions.
"Something as simple as a black suit or white shirt, you know, were coming very hard to find," Mahbubani said.
He's tried to mitigate those issues by purchasing more than he needs whenever he has the chance. That's led to an overstock of 30-40%.
"In fact, I'm storing stuff in storage units and warehouses. We're using whatever resources we can to make sure we have the basic items that people need," Mahbubani said. "They say 'make the hay when the sun shines,' right? So when we can get merchandise, we buy as much as we can."
There's no indication that the supply chain problems will end anytime soon. Along with the lingering effects of the first major wave of coronavirus that swept through China, shuttering factories and delaying shipments worldwide, another round of infections this year has triggered more shutdowns in the country with strict lockdown policies used for containing the virus.
For example this month, China ordered a lockdown of the 9 million residents of the northeastern city of Changchun amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area attributed to the highly contagious omicron variant.
"The people in the fabric factory are working making fabric. The people in the suit factory are working making suits. But you can't get buttons because the province where the buttons are made is shut down," he said. "In fact, a lot of our manufacturers and vendors are looking for ways to get out of China at this point because they're very strict on their lockdowns."
Staff writer Dale Denwalt covers Oklahoma's economy and business news for The Oklahoman. Have a story idea for Dale? He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @denwalt. Support Dale’s work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Pandemic's effect on supply chain lingers for OKC clothing store