After carrying the weight of the global economy since World War II with little fanfare, the lowly shipping pallet is finally commanding some respect.
Demand for the platforms used to haul nearly every consumer good or industrial ingredient is soaring amid a surge in e-commerce, forcing retailers and manufacturers to expand warehouses or pile inventories higher. At the same time, two keys to production -- cheap lumber and labor -- are scarce, and even nail costs are rising.
The result: Pallet prices have hit record highs, according to a U.S. Labor Department index, and European gauges show big jumps from the U.K. to Germany. The market may stay hot through the peak construction season in the springtime and as Covid-19 vaccines help revive restaurants and event venues -- adding to inflationary pressures rippling across supply chains.