The Disruption Report #33: Big Box Retailers Fight for Inventory while Small Retailers Struggle; Ports to Stay Open 24 Hours & China to the U.S. is Now 71 Days

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Longer Hours at West Coast Ports

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, major gateways for the toy industry, have announced they are expanding their hours. The effort is in response to continuous backups at both ports.

The ports will begin operating on a 24-hour basis in the near future. From what I read, there is some skepticism about how easily all of the many components (truckers, warehouses, workers, etc.) can be integrated into a 24-hour system. Also, expanded hours will have little short-term impact but hopefully help the ports move more goods after a shake-down period.

At least they are trying to do something. Let’s hope it works and works quickly.

How Many Ships Are Waiting to Unload in Los Angeles?

This impressive satellite image is from a Washington Post article by Tim Meko and Chiqui Esteban in their article “Satellite imagery shows the scale of the traffic congestion at the ports of Los Angeles.” Each of those tiny shapes in the water is a huge container ship.

China to U.S. Freight Times Now Taking 71 Days

In September of 2019, it took a container ship a little over 35 days to reach the U.S. That has now doubled. Below is a graph from Bloomberg News and Freightos showing shipping times over the last twenty-four months.

The Fight for Merchandise; the Big Retailers Battle It Out

The battle for merchandise is not for the weak of heart; particularly in 2021. Check out this Wall Street Journal headline: “Big-Box Retailers Battle for Inventory in Bet on Strong Holiday Sales.” Author, Lydia O’Neal, reports:

Best Buy Co. , Target Corp. and other large merchants are amassing more inventory compared with last year’s pandemic-depressed levels, in some cases logging double-digit percentage increases as the stockpiles also exceed 2019 values.

Accordint to Ms. O’Neal, inventories are at an historic low.

The ratio of U.S. retailers’ inventories to sales fell this spring to the lowest level in U.S. Census Bureau records dating to 1992, and the measure has ticked up only slightly even as record volumes of container imports have flowed into the U.S.

Smaller retailers will struggles to get inventory as the big players gobble all they can get.

If a small business that needed to ship a few sea containers goes up against a big retailer looking to move significantly more product, for instance, the larger order would win, said Joseph Feldman, a senior managing director at Telsey Advisory Group who focuses on retail. Smaller operators, he said, “don’t have the scale.”

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