We are going to need twelve days of Christmas this year. Why, because the toys may not make it under the tree for December 25 gift-giving.
Here’s are three headlines that go a long way to explaining the problem:
Bloomberg News: “Panama Canal Clogged With Ships, and Pandemic Is Making It Worse.”
New York Post: “Holiday toy supplies at risk amid southern California port jam.”
The Missourian: “Coronavirus Ramps Up Truck Driver Shortage.”
During the Spring and early summer, the toy industry suffered from interruptions in Chinese toy manufacturing. That was a big deal because China produces 86% of the world’s toys.
Since that time, toy production has ramped back up. The challenge now is too many toys, and other products are attempting to make it through three significant bottlenecks: The Port of Long Beach (our busiest port for toys), the Panama Canal (the gateway to the gulf and east coast ports) and, the U.S. transportation system.
The challenges start in China as toy companies compete for a low number of available containers on a spot market that has seen container costs double since the Spring. Once goods do make it onto a ship, they hit ports like Long Beach, which, due to the surge in imports, simply do not have the capacity to move them effectively off of ships, through customs, and into warehouses.
The final blockage occurs once the containers have made it through customs and need to be forwarded by domestic trucking. There are simply not enough drivers, and those that are available have an average age of 47. Older workers are understandably cautious about exposure to Covid19.
The toy industry has experienced shortages in the past, but they have been due to unexpected demand – a good problem. In this case, shortages will be due to the inability of toys to make it to bricks and mortar store shelves and e-commerce warehouses in time for Christmas – a bad problem. Children and parents who would have been willing to wait for an out of stock hot toy may just choose whatever toys are available. Good for those whose toys have made it to market, not so good for those that have not.
That’s why I think retailers and the toy industry should promote an extended gift-giving season in 2020. In other words, 12 days of Christmas. In Spain and South America, Christians celebrate Three Kings Day which takes place 12 days after Christmas and is a major gift-giving occasion. The British celebrate Boxing Day, which takes place on December 26 and is a major shopping day. And let’s not forget that there are eight days of Hanukah.
2020 has been a long, long year, but the end is in sight. In the meantime, this lyric sounds pretty good to me:
On the Twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying. Five golden rings. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.