LA’s port problems have retailers worrying about empty shelves for the holidays

Benjamin Gottlieb Nov 9, 2021
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Lots of space on the shelves in the toy department of a Houston Target store. Delayed shipments are causing headaches for retailers as they look toward the holiday shopping season. Brandon Bell via Getty Images

LA’s port problems have retailers worrying about empty shelves for the holidays

Benjamin Gottlieb Nov 9, 2021
Heard on:
Lots of space on the shelves in the toy department of a Houston Target store. Delayed shipments are causing headaches for retailers as they look toward the holiday shopping season. Brandon Bell via Getty Images
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Nina Forman, a sales associate at Blick Art Materials, said she’s become used to disappointed customers.

“It’s been getting, honestly, harder and harder telling customers we just don’t have it,” said Forman, who works in central Los Angeles.

She pointed to a section in the paint aisle where they usually sell a type of varnish. “[These] shelves have been empty. I haven’t seen anything in this row for, like, four or five months now,” she said.

Part of the problem is the massive cargo ship traffic jam off the coast of LA. With the holiday season approaching, some retailers are wondering if they’ll have their shelves stocked for the shopping crunch. 

About 2,000 miles away, Pamela McMillen has been keeping track of those ships from her office in Illinois. She’s in charge of purchasing art supplies for Blick and knows which ships have her products. 

“We have out-of-stocks, I won’t, I won’t lie. However, we’ve been building to this,” McMillen said, explaining that she started buying more well before the ports got so backed up.

But toy manufacturer Isaac Larian said a lot of his product is sitting on cargo ships right now.

“I gave up counting because it’s very depressing. I really did. I mean, we had, I think, about 960 [containers] at one point … it goes up and down,” said Larian, the CEO of MGA Entertainment. His brand makes popular toys such as the Bratz and L.O.L. Surprise! dolls.

Larian said his toys are on store shelves right now, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be there after Thanksgiving.

That’s because, he said, it used to take 14 days to ship his products from China to LA. Now, some of his products have been stuck on ships for more than a month.

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