Christmas Toys Shortage Fears As Pandemic Disrupts Global Supply

Christmas may still be months away, but infrastructure experts and retailers are reportedly already bracing themselves over potential shortages this festive season.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California, which Newsweek has contacted for comment, has noted in its September 15 update how 61 container ships are anchored offshore.

This record number is being forced to wait in line for a week or even longer, to dock and then offload their cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

And the infrastructure issues are by no means limited to the U.S. West Coast and the problems could well result in disappointed children come December 25.

Willy Shih, Robert & Jane Cizik Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, suggests shoppers nationwide can consequently expect popular toys to be both scarcer and more expensive this Christmas.

He told Newsweek: "Practically everything that moves by ocean containers cargo, which constitutes 95 percent of products that are globally traded, will be subject to some disruption this year.

"This is because of the historic strains on capacity among container shipping lines, but more importantly port infrastructure and inland distribution networks. Many importers have responded by ordering extra merchandise and trying to arrange earlier deliveries, which have only exacerbated the situation.

"We will see shortages and higher freight costs, likely reflected in significant price inflation, across a wide range of sectors. Toys will be no exception."

Ship report 9/15: New records noted by *: 146* total ships inport LA/LB includes 88* at anchor or drift areas & 58 at berths. Of the 146, 92* are container ships including 61* at anchor or in drift areas & 31 at berth. 25* vessels in drift areas (21* container ships, 4 tankers).

— Marine Exchange (@MXSOCAL) September 15, 2021
shipping containers
Thousands of truck-sized 30-ton shipping containers are stacked aboard the Hanjin Oslo freighter in the Port of Los Angeles March 29, 2002 in Los Angeles. A record number of container ships are currently anchored offshore the U.S. West Coast David McNew/Getty Images

Among the pandemic's ramifications was a soaring demand for the shipping containers in which all freight is ferried, due to the urgent need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) equipment around the world.

And this issue has been exacerbated by the disruption on work flows wrought by the coronavirus lockdowns and absentees due to ill health.

Gene Seroka, of the Port of Los Angeles, which Newsweek has approached for comment, told ABC7 how scaling up operations and recruitment drives could help salve the situation.

He said: "We need more workers on the job. We probably need expanded hours to match up with the work that's being done in other segments of the supply chain."

Steven Le Van, managing director of Le Toy Van, confirmed the industry is facing challenges.

He told Newsweek: "We are seeing record-breaking customer demand as more people are spending time at home discovering sustainable products and specifically investing in toys for their children's educational development.

"Le Toy Van, like many brands, is experiencing ongoing challenges with supply chains due to COVID-19 combined with shortages of transport, raw materials, and the workforce. As a business we have had to stockpile."

A Baby Yoda Animatronic doll, a Space Jam "Lebron James" Shoot + Dunk playset, and the LOL Surprise OMG Movie Magic Studios are among the toys tipped to be the most popular on Christmas 2021.

A China Shipping Lines container ship
A China Shipping Lines container ship heading toward the Vincent Thomas Bridge can be seen from the Queen Mary 2 Commodore Warwick cruise ship during the ship's maiden call to the Port of Los Angeles February 22, 2006. Infrastructure experts and retailers are reportedly already bracing themselves over potential toy shortages this Christmas David McNew/Getty Images

The Christmas toy shortfall concerns coincide with news a woman received a "passive-aggressive" present from her mother.

MonicaFaloolaGeller took to Mumsnet to reveal her unhappiness after receiving a JML Finishing Touch Flawless hair remover as a potentially tactless present.

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