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Retailers prep for another tough holiday season amid supply chain delays

Dirk Dallas
Cargo ships like those shown in this file photo are waiting to be unloaded at major ports in the United States, causing supply chain issues

Among the many implications of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year was a backlog of imported retail inventory. Syracuse University professor, Patrick Penfield, said this was due to exorbitant delays in the global supply chain which he expects to persist through another holiday season.

“For the past, I'd say 16 months, there have been ongoing issues within the supply chain and that's just because we have a global supply chain,” said Penfield. “It seems like every little thing that could go wrong with the global supply chain has.”

He said there are about 70 cargo ships filled with holiday inventory sitting off the shores of Los Angeles and Long Beach waiting to dock so those products can make it to shelves on time.

“Those goods probably won't be unloaded for another 70 days,” he said. “And then the dilemma you have after that is just trying to ship it to the retailers, you know, before the holidays.”

Amanda Powers is the director of communications for the Retail Council of New York State. And she said that despite all of these obstacles, many businesses have still learned to adapt.

“What we always find with our retailers, large and small is that they figure it out, they're pretty good at it, they learned how to pivot,” said Powers.

That’s not to say these delays haven’t been challenging for businesses.

“They're not only dealing with the pandemic situation in terms of curbside pickup or doing more online ordering than they normally would,” she said. “But they're trying to figure out how to make their inventory as accessible to their customers as they can.”

Both Penfield and Powers have the same advice for consumers coming into the holiday season.

“If you can shop early, you can still save the holidays,” said Penfield.

Powers said not only does shopping early help the consumer, but it levels out sales for retailers instead of getting bombarded with traffic during December.

“They can actually make some money and decrease some of the extra inventory on their shelves in an earlier time period than they normally would, and that's a good thing,” she said.

Both just urge consumers to be patient as many businesses try to survive this challenging holiday season.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.