Toy companies know what they want for Christmas: an end to crippling shipping delays at West Coast ports.
A combination of labor/management strife, truck shortage and high volume amidst the economic recovery have created logjams at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. These ports, the biggest on the U.S. West Coast, are awash with imports from Asia. The backlog at these ports is spilling onto other ports as in Tacoma and Seattle, Wash.
“There is definitely a significant impact on the toy industry,” said Rebecca Mond, director of federal government affairs for the Toy Industry Association Inc. of New York, in a phone interview. “More than sales are lost. It also affects relations with retailers.”
About 80 percent of the toys sold in the United States are made in Asia. And about half the industry's $22 billion in annual sales occurs during the holiday season centered on Christmas. Slowdowns at this time of year occur at the industry's most vulnerable season.
“The West Coast port delays have severely impacted our company,” reported Tony Sauers, director of operations for Faber-Castell USA, a supplier of arts and crafts products and writing instruments based in Cleveland.
“These delays have affected our customer order fill rates and have caused us to double handle just about every order due to product being back-ordered to our customers,” Sauers explained.
Faber-Castell USA has been making an end run around the U.S. ports by shipping containers into the port at Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Prince Rupert is about 2,100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, but it is closer to Asia than Los Angeles. Port traffic in Prince Rupert reportedly jumped nearly 50 percent in July.
“This has helped, but we are also seeing delays through that port that range from 7 to 14 days,” Sauers said. “Many people have been trying to ship using this Canadian port to avoid the U.S. West Coast ports, and thus it also has created bottlenecks at Prince Rupert.”
Sauers indicated delays at Prince Rupert, however, are not nearly as long as at U.S. West Coast ports.
Faber-Castell USA is also routing containers that require federal approval through the port of New York rather than in the west.
“We would rather take the longer in-transit time — 38 days from vessel departure date to our facility — via the East Coast rather than suffer the delays we are currently seeing with the U.S. West Coast ports,” he said.