Now, many shoppers in Georgia and around the nation have likely noticed differences on toy aisles and online this Christmas season. According to AJC, many products are in short supply. And often prices are up.
But for months behind the scenes, local businesses have been scrambling to limit the damage from a discombobulated global network for getting goods to market. The system has gone wrong at virtually every level, stymying manufacturers, marooning finished products at distant ports and leaving some toys far from consumers’ hands as this year’s Christmas clock winds down.
Retailers and toy companies say products are on many shelves amid surging holiday demand. But the cattywampus supply challenges have worsened for some companies as the pandemic grinds on, and recent local spot checks showed some gaps.
Somewhere between China and the U.S. is a cargo ship carrying thousands of Bluetooth speakers shaped like cute little animals.
They are a crucial part of the My Audio Pet inventory that K.J. Robinson agreed to supply to retailers long ago, in time for the holiday shopping season. The ship originally was supposed to arrive by late September. Like so much of the global supply chain, it’s not panning out.
His shipping costs quadrupled, even as delivery times grew longer than ever, but he said he ate the costs rather than increase prices this year.
Robinson limited orders from retailers because he couldn’t guarantee his products would arrive in time for the season. Some of his displays in stores aren’t up at all or aren’t fully stocked.
“It’s frustrating. There is nothing we can do about it,” he said. Sales will be significantly lower this year compared to 2020 or 2019, and the normally profitable company will likely lose money, he said. He laid off two of his five other full-time workers.
Retailers have struggled to keep their shelves full, whether with toys or other products, both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. The biggest players had extra options to avoid shortages. Walmart chartered its own cargo vessels, rerouting them to less-congested ports. Target used its resources to pump up inventories early. Still, several toy shelves in a Gwinnett County Target had empty spaces on a recent visit by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter.
Out-of-stock issues persist onlinefor the industry, with baby and toddler products as well as toys among the hardest hit,according to software giant Adobe. Overall retail out-of-stock messages were up 258% for most of November compared to the same month in 2019 before the pandemic, it found.