Illustration courtesy of John-Paul D'Agostino
There are several major issues impeding supply chains and shipping worldwide. From the pandemic to truck driver shortages, a multitude of complicated factors have combined to result in long delays in both product production and shipment. With the holiday season in full swing, these delays threatened the typical mass-shipment of goods for Hanukkah, Christmas, and other celebrations.
Local business owner Eric Marcus has been dealing with supply chain issues for some time now. “The supply chain is the worst it has ever been,” he commented.
On the production end, many factories have fallen behind because of the extended periods of time they were closed to meet the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions all over the world. Furthermore, plenty of them had to shift to manufacturing pandemic-related goods, such as masks and medical equipment, instead of making their usual products.
One issue affecting shipping is the lack of shipping containers. The lessened workforce due to the pandemic means that containers are spending more time waiting to be unloaded and put back into use. Enormous containers are sitting in warehouses and on docks for extended periods of time rather than being emptied and reloaded efficiently.
In October, 600 containers holding L.O.L Surprise Dolls, a popular children’s toy, took six weeks to be unloaded; these six weeks could have been used to ship other goods. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the price of a 40-foot container has risen from $2,000 to $25,000 in just two years because of the shortage, preventing many companies from being able to afford to ship products.
Even if a company manages to successfully ship a container overseas, its struggles are far from over. When it comes to transportation over land, the severe truck driver shortage, of about 60,000 drivers, lengthens the timeline even further. Truck drivers are leaving the profession because of their working conditions; they are often paid by the mile rather than by the time they spend driving, so the hours they spend in traffic or driving through poor weather are not compensated fairly. Also, they spend days or even weeks at a time away from their families, and their job involves a significant amount of risk in terms of safety on the road. These factors mean that there are not enough people to deliver products to retailers and consumers.
Demand for consumer goods continues to rise, and the end of each year is always the peak. Between back-to-school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah, the U.S. market is flooded with demand for consumer goods from September to January. In addition to the usual holiday purchases, many retailers feel panicked by all the delays and have started to over-order to make sure they at least receive something to stock their shelves with. All of these issues mean that shipping, especially products from overseas, will take longer this holiday season.
Junior Hannah Seideman has experienced longer shipping times and less items in stock when she shops online. “Recently, I have noticed that more things are out of stock when I buy clothes online, and it takes a lot longer for them to be back in stock,” Seideman said. “I have also noticed that shipping takes several days longer than it used to from a few websites.”
Supply chain issues can also lead to there being less items in stock in stores. However, many retailers are managing to make the best of the delays. With a combination of using old stock from previous years and ordering products much earlier than usual, there will be items to purchase — they just might not be as up to date as in previous years.
Junior Giulia Lubrano said, “I went shopping this weekend, and the shelves were a bit emptier than normal, but there were still plenty of items.”
Individual consumers should be sure to order in advance, pay attention to the tracking of their items, and be willing to head to the store in cases where shipping times are too long. Getting gifts this holiday season will still be more than possible, it may just require some more flexibility, patience, and creativity.