The skyscraper-long container ship blocking the Suez Canal was finally dislodged on March 29, ending a crisis that the German insurer Allianz estimated cost up to $10 billion a day.  While it seems unlikely that anything headed for your shop was in the Ever Given’s 18,000 containers, you may well experience other container-related disruptions in this year’s supply chain.

According to Jessie Frank, president & CEO of the giftware and home decor sales agency Werner Frank, “The domino effect of Coronavirus shutdowns has caused a critical container shortage in China. This has snowballed into a global overseas shipping crisis. Importing into the U.S., from anywhere and everywhere (not just from China) is not only very difficult with long wait times, but costs have skyrocketed to six times previous rates. No one knows when or how this will resolve, there is no end in sight. You are already seeing inventory issues with many of your current suppliers. This is only going to get worse… a lot worse.”

In an informative email to customers, Frank recommends placing orders early and looking for American-made products.  However she points out that many vendors in the U.S. rely on components and packaging from overseas, so they too may find filling orders challenging. Price increases and delays are likely on both domestic and imported products.

“I strongly advise ordering in-stock goods now for immediate shipment, as much as you can afford, for what you think you’ll need for the remainder of 2021. This doesn’t just apply to Werner Frank, it applies to all your suppliers. Take it in now because you’ll get the existing price and you will have the merchandise. If you wait, you might not be able to get the merchandise,” according to Frank.

In a year already filled with anxiety, this added challenge is not a welcome development.  But it’s better to know about the potential problem in advance so that you decide whether to take action. As the old retail saying goes, you can’t sell from an empty cart – and hopefully you’ll need lots of inventory as shopping starts to return to normal.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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