Saturday, October 16, 2021
No wands for Christmas
Hexed supply chains hit Harry Potter
By Diana Dittmer
There is a huge crunch in the world’s supply gears. The supply chain chaos is particularly bad for Great Britain. Warning toy retailers: Customers will no longer find popular items in stores when they are about to go Christmas shopping.
The supply chain nightmare never ends. And towards the end of the year it will be even creepier. Supply problems and rising costs for products that have become scarcer threaten to torpedo the Christmas business. It’s bad for businesses and bad for consumers. The question that many are already burning under their nails: Is the Christmas presents in danger?
In Britain of all places, the country that officially claims there are no problems, reports are piling up from retailers who are currently having very different experiences. For them, one thing is already certain: Consumers will probably not be able to draw on the full when it comes to this year’s Christmas shopping. Some gifts will simply not be available under the Christmas tree.
A British retailer who runs a shop for fan articles reports of a bottleneck that appears to be symptomatic and gives an idea of the chaos that could be expected on the island at the end of the year: there is apparently a shortage of the popular even after 20 years across the country Articles from the Harry Potter series. “First the Brexit hit, then the pandemic, then both together brought the manufacturers to stop their work. And after that they could no longer ship any containers,” quoted the British broadcaster BBC Elvijs Plugis, co-owner of the House of Spells business London.
Anyone who can still get hold of a magic wand currently has to dig deep into their pockets. “A Harry Potter wand used to cost £ 20, now it will cost £ 35 to £ 40,” he says. “All stores are sold out.” Not only magic wands from the popular youth series are difficult to get hold of, but also other film replicas, says Plugis, who is currently busy hoarding as much licensed goods as he can somehow get hold of.
The “House of Spells” has not yet increased the prices, but in view of the up to 30 percent higher freight prices and an equally high surcharge on customs duties, the price will have to be added on in the foreseeable future, says Plugis.
Other merchandise sellers also report empty warehouses. According to the BBC, the inventory of Harry Potter items at the London Toy Company has also been sold out. The toy manufacturer, whose customers include large companies such as Amazon and Harrods, reports a 900 percent increase in container prices for the company.
Are you shopping for Christmas in January?
In order to secure supplies, other routes have already been chosen. The company also keeps 35,000 toys valued at a quarter of a million pounds in ports. Customers would still have to wait up to three weeks longer for their goods, says director Joel Berkowitz.
Alan Simpson, CEO of Toytown, a chain of independent retailers based in Belfast, believes the dry spell will be longer and therefore urges customers to start their Christmas shopping as early as January next year. “Don’t expect to come and find what you would normally find in a toy store in December,” he tells the BBC. He has been in the business for 42 years but can’t remember ever having had problems like this. Simpson will also raise prices. According to him, it is a problem that many retailers are currently facing.
Barbie dolls are also high on children’s wish lists for Christmas. These are also in short supply, as one of the UK’s largest toy retailers, The Entertainer, reports. Here, too, the goods pile up in the British ports and wait for onward transport. Traffic jams are mainly reported from Felixstowe in Suffolk, the UK’s largest container port.
The British Isles is suffering from the shortage of thousands of truck drivers. Bringing inventory to the right place at the right time is difficult, says CEO Gary Grant. The range of goods is indeed large, but demand will far exceed it. For Grant, trade is not a shortage problem, but rather a transport and storage problem. There are too few freight containers. And the goods that arrive from Asia are unloaded in the ports, but not transported on – and that at the busiest time of the year, of all times.
The lights of the world economy are flickering
There is a crunch in the world’s supply gears. At the latest with the corona crisis, it is obvious how fragile the global just-in-time supply chains are. Everywhere where industry and retailers hang on to the Asian drip and wait for goods from overseas, there are complaints about shortage management. The carmakers are missing computer chips – the first German auto supplier is bankrupt because car production is stalling – unfinished cars are parked on exhibition grounds, like the planes at the wedding of the pandemic.
The lights of the world economy are flickering, describes the “Financial Times”. All over the world, heavily loaded container ships with urgently expected cargo bob around uselessly in front of the ports, but can neither dock nor be unloaded because of a lack of personnel. And when the goods are finally unloaded, the journey is over again – because there are no truck drivers.
The situation is particularly acute in Great Britain, which is primarily related to Brexit. The industry lacks workers who previously came from the EU. Between summer 2020 and spring 2021, 14,000 EU citizens stopped working as truck drivers. For months, companies have been warning that the usual Christmas surge in demand for turkeys, toys and sweets cannot be satisfied. The food association warns of a new normal for the UK. But the government in London is still waving its hand, and it considers worries about supply shortages at Christmas to be unfounded.
Supply chains that have grown over decades can’t be reforged overnight – and that’s not just because wands are out of stock. Moody’s analysts assume that the interruptions in the supply chains “get worse before they get better”. The pandemic, border controls and mobility restrictions would have triggered a “perfect storm”. Experts believe that costs and prices will rise and slow global GDP growth. In order to ensure the smooth operation of the worldwide logistics and transport network, Moody’s calls for a “concerted global effort”.