Retailers encourage early holiday shopping as supply chain issues cause delays

Global supply chain issues likely to affect availability of goods for the holidays
Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 11:48 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - While people are just now starting to bust out the Halloween decorations, experts say it would be wise to also start working on that holiday shopping list.

Talk about, spooky season.

A supply chain mess means many of the items on your holiday shopping list could be in short supply by the time November and December roll around.

Right now at Learning Express Toys, shelves are filled floor to ceiling with books, Legos, stuffed animals and more. Owners Mark and Angel Fair said stocking those shelves took a lot of planning.

“The things we’re receiving now are things we ordered back in February, March, April, so we’re planning at least, you know, two to three months out with everything that we’re ordering and projecting,” Angel Fair said.

Products are taking a lot longer to reach U.S. store shelves because of global supply chain issues. Because of the delays, the Fairs now plan months in advance when it comes to buying products to sell in their store. Before the delays, they only needed six to eight weeks to plan ahead.

And it’s not just toys. Experts warn even key items could be difficult to find. Everything from clothing to electronics to furniture, to even car and boat parts are affected.

“Right now We’ve got 10,000 engines sitting in Japan all ready to go in containers but there’s no boats,” said Dave Ittner with Yamaha Motor Corporation. “It’s happening to all of us. If you go into a Walmart or any of these stores and you look and you see the empty shelves.”

So what’s causing the supply chain mess? Think of it as a giant clog.

Hans Bean, the Chief Commercial Officer with North Carolina Ports, describes it as a snap-back of production and demand after essentially everything ground to a halt during the peak of the pandemic.

Container ships are once again moving freight only to wait their turn to unload that freight once they reach a U.S. port.

“Just about all the ships that are available are in service globally but in this way the trade corridors from Europe and North and South Americas and to Asia are all running at capacity and consumer demand is still very strong,” Bean said. “Demand is quite strong there’s no more capacity available in terms of vessels.”

Images and video from the West Coast have shown dozens of giant container ships waiting to unload for weeks. According to Bean, the backlog of ships there has ripple effects here on the East Coast.

While the situation is not as dire at east coast ports, there is still a backlog of vessels at places like New York and Savannah, according to Bean. He hopes the Port of Wilmington can provide a solution.

“The backlog is getting a bit more pronounced and we’re working with people to say, ‘hey you might want to think about working on your network, working on your vessel rotation and considering options because we want to provide those options here,’” he said.

While its unclear how long the supply chain issues will last, experts say it will be a problem at least through the holidays. That’s why Mark and Angel Fair say people need to do their holiday shopping earlier this year.

“Shopping early — I know everybody keeps hearing it but unfortunately it’s a real thing this year, so to get the best selection that’s really what we’re recommending,” Mark Fair said.

“Right now in October our shelves are stuffed full of all the beautiful things that we’ve ordered and there’s a lot to choose from — a lot of variety,” Angel Fair said.

That variety may not be there as we near the holiday season.

The Fairs have five children and typically try to have their holiday shopping done by Thanksgiving. This year, however, they plan to have it all done by Halloween.

Top toymakers say not only will their products be harder to find this holiday season, but also more expensive. A shortage in shipping container space is driving up prices.

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