Supply chain mess threatens holiday sales, from hot sauce to board games


Supply chain disruptions threaten to deprive some businesses of holiday sales, leaving them short of packaging and transportation at a critical time of the year.

Some manufacturers of toys, games and other consumer goods are struggling to find a way to bring products to market and must decide which customers will receive orders when stocks run out. In some cases, companies figure out how to remake products so that they have something to sell during a season that can generate a large chunk of annual sales.

In Casper, Wyo., Hot sauce producer Eli Dicklich said he had enough ketchup, brown sugar, and other ingredients to make his Pine Ridge brand of sauces, but not enough 8-ounce glass jars to bottling them and shipping them to customers. For several months this winter, the pot shortage prevented his company, Herbadashery LLC, from selling its three-pot vacation packs featuring jalapeño and sweet mustard barbecue sauces. Mr. Dicklich recently received a shipment of the larger 18-ounce jars and is now rushing to get them to customers before Christmas.

“I couldn’t fulfill the new incoming orders,” Mr. Dicklich said. “I’m sure I missed a bunch. “

The holiday season is a key season for the US economy as consumers shop for gifts, spend holiday bonuses, and stock pantries for holiday meals. For some businesses, sales over the period from Thanksgiving to New Years Day can represent a large chunk of income for the year. In 2020, nearly 30% of sales at hobby, toy, and game stores were in November and December, according to the US Census Bureau, and December was the highest sales month for stores in appliances.

Companies have had to decide who gets the available products. Creative Director Mitch Achiron and Managing Partner James Barber, in the back, with the trucks from Luke’s Toy Factory.

Mr. Dicklich and other companies facing vast supply chain disruptions – including waiting ports, scarce materials and components, and too few workers to staff production lines and drive trucks – have said part of their 2021 holiday sales are likely lost. for real. The problems could also weigh on future sales: Some executives said their companies could damage their reputation if they were unable to deliver products on time, if at all.

In response, companies are adding shifts, finding new suppliers and taking other steps to ensure their products reach customers and under Christmas trees in the last days of the 2021 season.

Companies are taking steps to ensure their products reach customers in the last days of the holiday season.

After facing port delays and missing the delivery deadline for a large retail customer, Kemi Tignor’s puzzles were still stuck in one U.S. warehouse and had to be moved to another. She said she decided to take matters into her own hands. Ms. Tignor is the owner of Little Likes Kids LLC, a Washington, DC-based company that makes racially diverse puzzles for children.

Ms Tignor rented a U-Haul in Washington, DC, in late October, and drove four hours to a warehouse in Monmouth Junction, NJ. Tignor said he emailed a New Jersey warehouse worker. “Will your warehouse be able to load the U-Haul truck?” “

The warehouses of the Inland Empire of California are a critical step in the American supply chain. Low warehouse vacancy rates in the region, combined with port delays, create a perfect storm of challenges this holiday season. Photo: Sam Rosenthal

Ms Tignor loaded the puzzles with the help of warehouse workers and drove six extra hours to a Rhode Island logistics provider who could ship them to retail stores. The multi-state dash ensured its puzzles were on store shelves in places like Target. Corp.

and Nordstrom Inc.

for Black Friday and the peak holiday sales season, she said.

Some manufacturers have to make tough choices about who gets the available products. A few weeks ago, MWB Toy Co., based in Danbury, Connecticut, temporarily halted some wholesale activities to focus on customers buying direct online. Jim Barber, the managing partner of the company, which sells toys under the Luke’s Toy Factory brand, said they don’t have enough toy trucks to build for everyone.

Mr Barber estimated that Luke’s holiday sales could be 50% higher if he had enough parts. But he said he was hesitant to invest tens of thousands of dollars in new molds because he doesn’t know how long the increased demand will last.

“Suddenly we don’t have any fire truck ladders anymore. This week we are out of dump truck barriers, ”said Barber. “Right now everyone is working hard. “

Adaptive Tech Solutions LLC, based in Sand Springs, Okla., Modifies and manufactures toys for children with physical disabilities. Company owner Denise Bandl said many of the products she needed to purchase had become difficult to find due to supply chain issues. She now regularly spends time researching new suppliers, she said, and works overtime to fulfill orders that arrive before Christmas.

“We do our best to keep our shelves well stocked,” Ms. Bandl said. “Right now we have more holes than we’ve ever had. “

Parts for toys and other holiday items have become scarce because suppliers are overwhelmed with demand.

Others are rethinking products to avoid known shortages and discovering some benefits.

Board game maker Continuum Games Inc. has developed a new form of charades, which ultimately involves a group staging a complex clue while one person guesses. Charade Parade, which is sold in stores and online, was originally designed to include a specially designed electronic clock. The company’s supplier in China said earlier this year that it would not be possible to produce the timer for the holidays. Wayne Rothschild, the company’s vice president of product development, estimates that about 70% of its toys and board games are sold to consumers in the fourth quarter.

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The Indianapolis-based company decided to create a smartphone app and include a phone holder instead. Now, the board game instructions require players to download an app and use it to time the game. The app has become a new source of revenue for the company, Rothschild said, as it allows users to purchase new sets of words or purchase the entire game digitally. It can also take photos automatically while playing the game.

“It got us into the 2000s,” Mr. Rothschild said.

Write to Austen Hufford at [email protected]

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