‘Buy it when you see it’: Retailers fear holiday shortages

While big retailers like Walmart and Target have the power to buy their own containers, use air freight, and take other steps to make sure they get inventory, smaller retailers are at the mercy. from their suppliers, who increasingly suspend delivery guarantees and sometimes do not communicate. at all.

For Pigg, a pepper jelly she sells typically has a two week turnaround time; now it takes four to six weeks to arrive, with no guarantee that it will arrive at all. An order she placed for jelly in July was delivered in October. And she struggles to get hold of various things, like shopping bags and candles, due to the lack of wicks and glass jars that candles fit into.

“It’s just one thing after another,” she said.

Last year, Renee Silverman, owner of Irv’s Luggage in Vernon, Ill., Didn’t purchase luggage until the holidays – no one was traveling. This year people travel and need luggage – but now the problem is finding luggage to sell.

Stocks due to arrive in August and September were pushed back to December due to supply issues. Silverman tried to split the orders among five or six vendors, such as Samsonite and Ricardo Beverly Hills.

Meanwhile, prices are rising due to skyrocketing shipping costs. Around the same time last year, ocean freight rates from China to the US west coast were $ 3,847 per 40-foot container. Now, the same container will cost $ 17,377 to ship, according to Freightos, a Hong Kong-based online freight marketplace.

Most of the suppliers Silverman works with have raised prices once or twice in the past six months to offset rising costs – normally they increase prices once every several years. So she tried to place orders before the price increases.

“I feel like I have 14 plates spinning in the air, not knowing what’s going to happen when,” she said. “The salespeople do not call back or have no responses.”

Most of the delays are in stocks from China and, to a lesser extent, Thailand, she said. His suppliers told him that the delays were due to the safeguarding of the ports.

According to Freightos, the average time it takes for ocean freight to go door-to-door has increased by 45% over the past year, from 51 days to 74 days. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, account for 40% of all ocean containers entering the United States. Monday evening, 73 container ships were at anchor, awaiting unloading.

Normally, there is no waiting for the unloading of container ships, said Kevin Ketels, senior lecturer in global supply chain management at Wayne State University.

“These are significant delays,” he said.

Rob Pickering, owner of five Snapdoodle Toys & Games stores in the Seattle area, said ordering for the holidays had “been a real struggle.”

The large holiday orders that typically came in August were instead postponed to July. As a result, the company’s warehouse and reserves are fuller than normal for this time of year.

Still, some items that Pickering ordered in June and July did not arrive. Some small toy makers have already stopped taking and filling more holiday orders. Some popular items, including Ravensburger puzzles and Bruder trucks, both imported from Germany, will likely have vanished from shelves long before Christmas, Pickering said.

“We tell our customers to buy it when you see it, and don’t expect to buy it later in the season,” he said.

Some retailers have moved production or created their own private label products to try and gain more control over the inventory they have on the shelves.

Chris Lynch is the co-founder of Everyday California, La Jolla, Calif., A clothing brand with an online store and retail store, as well as an adventure travel company.

It has experienced supply chain problems “at all levels,” he said. Cases of COVID-19 increased in Vietnam in July and August, forcing some factories manufacturing hats and other headwear to close. And there have been transportation issues with manufacturers in China, where they source items like hoodies and sweatshirts.

Lynch has moved some of the production closer to home. He makes popular items like hats and t-shirts in Tijuana, Mexico. But it still faces delays due to a shortage of raw materials.

Christine Noh, CEO of Nohble, an independent chain of five shoe and clothing stores in New York and New Jersey, says she is terrified of the upcoming holiday season. Her inventory is down 58% and half of her warehouse shelves are empty. Big shoe brands like Nike and Adidas were hit hard when factories in Vietnam were closed.

Noh started a private label line to make sure they had enough stock in the stores. The line manufactures athletic fleece sets and basic t-shirts. It is made in Bangladesh, where it has a relationship with the factory.

“When we place an order with them, we have more communication and visibility,” she said. And she chose to airlift some of the clothes to make sure they arrived.

Timing is of the essence due to the short vacation period.

“If everything shows up in January, it’s not really helpful,” she said. “Therefore, there is the feeling that everyone is collectively holding their breath. “

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