For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has been crippling; for the puzzle industry, it’s created demand not seen in decades. People may not be able to pull together all the pieces of their life, but they can forget the pandemic for a few hours at a time and put together a puzzle. “Basically every day was like Black Friday or Cyber Monday,” says Colin Wroblewski, co-owner of White Mountain Puzzles in Jackson, of the brisk business that started when COVID-19 first hit the country.
White Mountain Puzzles, which has 23 employees, is a family-owned company co-owned by Wroblewski and Sean Minton, whose fathers founded the company in 1978. The company works with dozens of artists and designers to create one-of-a-kind puzzles, including local scenery, holiday scenes and pop culture-inspired collages. In 2018, White Mountain Puzzles represented NH at the White House for the Made in America Showcase.
Wroblewski says the company was “seeing healthy growth anywhere from 10 to 20% from year to year. This year we’re expecting it to grow closer to 70 to 80%.” The initial spring spike in demand led to unprecedented web traffic and a 10,000 order backlog. White Mountain Puzzles contracted with a third-party logistics company to resolve the backorders coming into their main warehouse in Massachusetts. As a result, a portion of their inventory was shipped to warehouses in Kentucky and Utah.
White Mountain Puzzles’ backlog was part of a national trend. On Amazon, where puzzles used to sell for about $16, some were going for $60 or more last spring, if they were available at all. Big box store shelves were similarly bare. This led people to form local puzzle swap groups on Facebook, including “Seacoast NH Puzzle Swap” and “Puzzle Swap in the 603.”
White Mountain Puzzles has caught up with the surge but Wroblewski says the unprecedented demand will keep supply down for the immediate future. “There will be a shortage of supply in the puzzle industry probably until at least spring of 2021,” he says.
For more information, visit whitemountainpuzzles.com.
This article was written by Michael LeBlanc through the Young Reporters Project, a partnership between Business NH Magazine and University of NH Manchester.