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As temperatures climb, air conditioners are pricier and in short supply, hardware stores say

A man looks at air conditioners for sale at a P.C. Richard & Son store in New York. (Richard Drew/AP)
A man looks at air conditioners for sale at a P.C. Richard & Son store in New York. (Richard Drew/AP)

Customers are streaming into Zach Gaumond's hardware store in Falmouth searching for ways to keep cool.

"As of, I'd say probably like Tuesday, we've been picking up with the fans and the ACs selling pretty good," said Gaumond, manager of Eastman's Home & Hardware in Falmouth.

And it's no wonder. Temperatures were expected to hit the 90s over the weekend as Massachusetts experienced some of the hottest days of the year so far.

But hardware stores like Gaumond's are facing supply chain issues, making it more challenging to keep units in stock. That means consumers may have fewer choices and have to pay higher prices.

In previous years, Gaumond would order half a dozen units in the late fall to have for early buying, with the intent of re-stocking depending on demand. But starting during the pandemic, he says it's gotten harder and harder to replenish. So, this year, he took a different approach.

"What we've been doing is buying heavier early on," said Gaumond. "Buying like 30, 40, 50 units ahead of time and then just selling through them throughout the summer instead of replenishing every week."

Gaumond says customers will see AC units at his store that are at least $20 more expensive this year than in the past.

Hometown Ace Hardware in Gloucester also tried to order ahead as demand for air conditioners, fans, and wading pools has already risen.

"We also are buying more than usual, so to avoid a shortage at the warehouse," said store manager Carlos Ubarri. He said the store also has a separate storage facility, making it easier to put aside extra items. "So when we get opportunity, we just buy more that we have."

Extra storage space is key said John Wheatley, owner of Shattuck Hardware in Arlington.

Still, even when stores can find units to buy, they cost more. Wheatley said air conditioner units are roughly $30 to $50 more expensive at his store this year compared to 2021.

He says he's seeing some customers come in now, but expecting many more buyers this summer when hot days become more frequent. So he's planning ahead.

"We're buying large quantities right now so that in June or July, when the next heat wave comes, we'll have inventory," Wheatley said, "because by then the distributors might be out."

But not everyone can do that, Wheatley says. So as the weather keeps getting warmer, some other stores could run out.

Related:

Amanda Beland Twitter Producer/Director
Amanda Beland is a producer and director for Radio Boston. She also reports for the WBUR newsroom.

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