Retailers fear shortages as the holiday season approaches | News, sports, jobs

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Ginger Pigg moves boxes of grocery bags into the storage room of her gift boutique, The Perfect Pigg in Cumming, Georgia, Thursday afternoon, October 22, 2021. The bags should have been delivered in four weeks, but took 14 weeks. AP photo

NEW YORK – The Perfect Pigg, a gift shop owned by Ginger Pigg, is the place to go for Cumming, Georgia residents to pick up gift items such as children’s toys and housewares.

But this year the shelves in stores could be a bit sparse. Due to bottlenecks in the global supply chain, many stores like Pigg’s are struggling to get as much inventory as possible before the crucial Christmas shopping season.

“I’m a little stressed” said Pigg, who has about 60% of the Christmas inventory she usually has at this time. Some of the stock that she ordered in July has not yet arrived. “I feel like I’ve done everything I could do” She said. “I hope and pray that it all comes in.”

The global supply chain has been plagued by a myriad of problems, from factories closing due to spikes in COVID-19, a shortage of containers to ship items, backups in ports and warehouses, and a shortage of truckers.

While larger retailers like Walmart and Target have the option to purchase their own containers, use air freight, and take other steps to ensure they get inventory, smaller retailers are exposed to their suppliers who are increasingly exposing delivery guarantees and sometimes not communicating at all .

For Pigg, a pepper jelly she sells typically has a turnaround time of two weeks; Now it takes four to six weeks to arrive with no guarantee that it will arrive at all. An order she placed for the jelly in July was delivered in October. And she’s struggling to get various things like shopping bags and candles because the wicks and jars the candles go in are running out.

“It was just one thing at a time” She said.

Last year Renee Silverman, owner of Irv’s Luggage in Vernon, Illinois, didn’t buy any luggage before the holidays – no one was out. This year people are on the go and need luggage – but now the problem is finding luggage to sell.

Inventories, which should come in August and September, have been postponed to December due to delivery problems. Silverman has tried to split orders across five or six vendors like Samsonite and Ricardo Beverly Hills.

At the same time, prices rise due to increasing shipping costs. At that time last year, ocean freight rates from China to the U.S. west coast were $ 3,847 per 40-foot container. It now costs $ 17,377 to ship the same container, according to Freightos, a Hong Kong-based online freight marketplace.

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

“I have the feeling that 14 plates are spinning in the air without knowing what is coming and when.” She said. “Vendors don’t call back or have no answers.”

Most of the delays relate to inventory from China and to a lesser extent from Thailand, she said. Her salespeople have told her that the delays are due to securing ports.

According to Freightos, the average time it takes ocean freight to get door-to-door has increased by 45% over the past year, from 51 days to 74 days. Ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California account for 40% of all shipping containers entering the United States. On Monday evening, 73 container ships were anchored waiting to be unloaded.

Usually there is no waiting for container ships to be unloaded, said Kevin Ketels, lecturer in global supply chain management at Wayne State University.

“These are big delays” he said.

Rob Pickering, owner of five Snapdoodle Toys & Games stores in the Seattle area, said the order was placed for the holidays “Was a real fight”

Large holiday orders, usually placed in August, have been moved to July instead. As a result, the company’s warehouse and storage facilities are busier than normal for this time of year.

However, some items that Pickering ordered in June and July did not arrive. Some smaller toy manufacturers have already stopped taking and executing orders for the holidays. Some popular items, including Ravensburger puzzles and Bruder trucks, both imported from Germany, are likely to disappear from shelves long before Christmas, Pickering said.

“We advise our customers to buy it when they see it, and not plan on buying it later in the season.” he said.

Some retailers have moved production or developed their own private label products to have more control over their inventory.

Chris Lynch is the co-founder of Everyday California, based in La Jolla, California, an online and retail apparel brand and adventure tour company.

He’s having problems with the supply chain “across the border,” he said. COVID-19 cases increased in Vietnam in July and August, forcing some factories that make hats and other headgear to close. And there have been transport problems with manufacturers in China, where he can get items like hoodies and sweatshirts.

Lynch moved some of the production closer to home. In Tijuana, Mexico, he makes popular items such as hats and t-shirts. But it still faces delays due to raw material shortages.

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

Noh started a private label line to ensure stores had enough inventory. The line makes fleece sports 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 decided to air freight some of the dresses to make sure they arrive.

Timing is crucial because of the short vacation window.

“If everything shows up in January, that’s not really helpful” She said. “That’s why you have the feeling that everyone is holding their breath together.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.

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