WASHINGTON – 73 days until Christmas and Catch Co. time is running for.
The Chicago-based fishing company had acquired a location at 2,650 Walmart stores nationwide to sell a new product called “12 Days of Fishmas,” an advent calendar for fishing enthusiasts. But like so many products this holiday season, calendars got stuck in a huge traffic jam in the flow of goods from Asian factories to American store shelves.
With Black Friday fast approaching, most of the calendars are crammed into a 40-foot steel box in the garden at Long Beach Harbor, blocked by other containers full of toys, furniture, and car parts. Truckers a couple of times Catch Co. They had come to pick up his container, but were turned away. Dozens of other ships were sitting in the harbor, waiting for their turn to berth. It was just one small piece in a vast maze of shipping containers that thousands of American retailers were desperately trying to reach.
“There are delays in every part of the supply chain,” said Tim MacGuidwin, the company’s chief of operations. “You’re not quite in control.”
Catch Co. is one of many companies that puts themselves at the mercy of customers. global supply chain disruptions this year. shortage of workers, pandemic disruptions, strong consumer demand, and other factors have combined to break the global conveyor belt that mixes consumer goods from Chinese factories to American ports, from railroads and highways to homes and shops in the United States.
American shoppers get nervous as they notice certain toys, electronics and bikes may not arrive on time for holiday. The scarcity of both finished products and components needed to make things like cars, feeding rising pricescessation of work in American factories and slowing economic growth.
Cutbacks have also become a problem for President Biden, who has been branded as “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” on Fox News.
The White House supply chain task force is working with private companies to speed up the flow of goods, even if it’s considering deploying the National Guard to help drive the trucks. But the president’s authority to mitigate a supply chain crisis linked to much larger economic forces that are both global in nature and beyond his control seems limited. On Sunday, Mr. Biden met with other world leaders At the 20s Group in Rome to discuss supply chain challenges.
On October 13, the day Catch Co. expects its calendars to empty the port, Mr. Biden’s Port of Los Angeles and companies like FedEx and Walmart move towards clock operations, joined the Port of Long Beach, where a terminal began staying open 24 hours a few weeks ago.
“This is a big first step in accelerating the movement of materials and goods throughout our supply chain,” said Mr Biden. “But now we need the rest of the private sector chain to step up as well.”
Mr MacGuidwin praised the announcement, but Catch Co., which has been dealing with supply chain issues for months. He said it was too late to make too much of a difference.
The company’s problems are primarily related to the pandemic. Factory closures in China and in other countries, it led to shortages of graphite, which is used for fishing rods. a worldwide scramble for shipping containers This soon followed, as Americans began spending less on movies, travel, and restaurants, and more on equipping their home offices, gyms, and game rooms with products made in Asian factories.
Shipping costs increased tenfold, and large companies resorted to extreme measures to deliver their goods. Walmart, Costco, and Target kick off charter their own ships It has hired thousands of new warehouse workers and truck drivers to transport products from Asia.
Catch Co. Smaller companies such as For example, as soon as Apple released a new iPhone, existing shipping containers disappeared and were diverted to ship Apple’s products overseas.
Seeing increased demand for their poles, bait and other products as fishing has become the ideal pandemic hobby, Catch Co. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The company briefly turned to air freight products to meet demand, but costing five or six times that of sea freight, reducing the company’s profits.
Supply chain issues have become an even bigger problem for Catch Co.’s “12 Days of Fishmas” calendar, which features the company’s plastic worms, silverfish hooks, and painted bait hidden behind cardboard windows. Mr MacGuidwin said the calendar, which retails for $24.98, was a “big deal” for the company. It would account for more than 15 percent of the company’s holiday sales and introduce customers to its other products. But it had an expiration date: Who would buy an advent calendar after Christmas?
Mr. MacGuidwin briefly considered saving latecomers for next year, before realizing that the calendar said “2021.”
“It can’t be sold after Christmas,” he said. “It is a scrapped product from now on.”
Like many American companies, Catch Co. It also tried to prepare for global delays.
The Chinese factories the company works with began producing the calendar in April, before Walmart approved their orders. On July 10, the calendars were sent to the port in Qingdao. But a global container shortage For a month in the Chinese port he kept the calendars idle and waited for a box to ship.
On September 1, about three weeks after sailing into the Pacific Ocean, the ship anchored off the coast of Southern California with 119 other vessels racing to unload. Two weeks later, Catch Co.’s containers disembarked and descended into the maze of boxes in Long Beach Harbor.
Inside the box
The twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which process 40 percent of shipping containers brought into the United States, have struggled for months to keep up with the surge in imports.
Southern California ports together handled 15.3 million 20-foot containers in the first nine months of the year, up nearly a quarter from last year. Dockers and truckers worked long hours throughout the pandemic. More than 100 trains, each at least three miles long, left the Los Angeles basin every day.
But this fall, Southern California ports and warehouses were so full that many cranes in the harbor were actually come to a standstill, without space to store containers or truckers to ferry them away.
Port of Long Beach on September 21, started a trial to keep a terminal open around the clock. A few weeks later, at the insistence of Mr. Biden and the support of various unions, the Port of Los Angeles and Union Pacific’s nearby California facility joined.
So far, several truckers have arrived during extended hours. Ports pointed to bottlenecks in other parts of the supply chain, including a shortage of truckers unable to fit more products at their doorstep and overstuffed warehouses.
“We are in a national crisis,” said Mario Cordero, managing director of the Long Beach port. “It will be an ongoing dynamic until we have full control of the next virus.”
In the past, Catch Co. He often shipped goods by rail from West Coast ports. But longer travel times on rail lines, as well as high demand for containers in Chinese ports, mean shipping companies are reluctant to let their containers travel too far across the ocean.
Instead, Catch Co. The calendars were transported by truck to a warehouse outside the port owned by the shipping company Flexport. There, they were placed in another truck to be shipped to Catch Co.’s Kansas City distribution center, where workers would repackage calendars for Walmart.
Mr. MacGuidwin predicted that the calendars would arrive in Walmart stores by November 17 – just in time for Black Friday. The entire journey of the calendar from the factory to the store shelves will take about 130 days, compared to the typical 60 days this year.
Mr MacGuidwin said he believes supply chain challenges could ease over the next year as ports, rails and trucking companies work on slowly accumulating workloads. Asia remains the best place to produce most of their wares, he said. But if shipping costs remain high and disruptions continue, they may consider sourcing more products from the United States and Latin America.
Catch Co. he’s already started designing his calendar for next year and is still deciding whether to say “2022” or not.
“An open question,” said Mr MacGuidwin.