Avoiding a (supply chain) nightmare before Christmas

If everyone’s holiday gifts are stuck on a ship somewhere, then why doesn’t toy store owner Don Kipper care?

Kipper and his daughter Lily run Kip’s Toyland, billed as Los Angeles’ oldest toy store, and Kipper the elder says he’s really not worried about the massive global supply chain issues that have left them Small merchants and big box retailers frantic over whether they will make it receive all the merchandise they need for the vitally important holiday shopping season.

The Kippers realized months ago that classic toys carried by the family farm were getting harder to get and taking longer to arrive. The purchasing department – that’s Lily – has stepped up a gear, long before the full extent of the supply chain mess became apparent, ordering far more than usual in the event that products get stuck. in transit.

“It became clear to us that this was going to be a problem,” said Kipper, whose father Irvin opened the store in 1945 after being released from a WWII POW camp and was looking for a job. amusing. “You have to do whatever it takes to keep the merchandise in business. “

Now it’s a game of waiting to see if they’ve stocked enough Lincoln logs, collecting sticks, dolls, board games, and more. Almost everything in the old-fashioned store, located in the famous original Farmers’ Market since 1956, travels by cargo ship from Asia, Kipper said.

Supply chain bottlenecks are delaying products, raising prices, hurting businesses and slowing economic growth to such an extent that President Biden intervened on Wednesday announcing the Port of Los Angeles would operate 24 hours a day. 24 to facilitate logistical stacking, similar to a pilot effort recently started by the nearby port of Long Beach.

The toy industry is particularly sensitive to delivery delays, as 85% of the 3 billion toys sold each year in the United States come from China, said Ed Desmond, executive vice president of external affairs for the Toy Industry Assn.

“So you can see the dependence and reliance of our industry to get their products here and to the shelves and stores here,” Desmond said.

But these are not just toys. A long list of items destined for factories, retail shelves and consumer thresholds was hung, including lumber, cars, furniture, electronics, bicycles, clothing and shoes. .

The supply chain has been disrupted by many factors: the pandemic, surging consumer demand, raging storms, shortage of freighters and containers, and a shortage of people willing to drive trucks. or stock warehouses and store shelves for wages offered. In China and other Asian countries, COVID-19 outbreaks have periodically closed factories and port terminals.

Southern California’s worst traffic jam is off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the country’s two largest cargo container seaports, as dozens of ships wait for dock space for unload. Once the ships were unloaded, the cargo containers also languished for an unprecedented time waiting to be placed on a truck or train, said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

Port congestion will benefit immensely from 24-hour operations, but new initiatives will take time to implement and mountains of cargo crates will take time to subside, port officials said.

Traffic congestion is not just a local problem.

A safeguard at Britain’s busiest commercial port is raising concerns over shortages of popular items while on vacation there. A record number of ships are also anchored off the ports of New York-New Jersey and Savannah, Georgia, which ranks third and fourth among U.S. seaports in terms of cargo container traffic.

These are ships that are sometimes longer than the height of Los Angeles’ tallest skyscraper, the 1,100 foot Wilshire Grand Center. Getting them to port requires delicate choreography involving port pilots and tugs to slowly move ships through the water.

The larger one can carry the equivalent of nearly 24,000 20-foot freight containers. (Although the most common size for steel boxes these days is 40 feet long, the industry still uses the historical measurement). If a ship of this size were to unload all of its containers in one port, they would fill a 44-mile-long freight train, according to estimates by Monegasque shipping company Costamare Inc ..

Some retailers and parcel carriers have urged consumers to purchase and ship holiday gifts early, or they may find that a much-needed gift is out of stock or won’t arrive on time.

James Zahn, associate editor of the Toy Book, a leading trade publication for the toy industry, advised toy buyers “should check with your local retailers.” Don’t just think of mass retailers, you have to check out some of these independent toy stores.

This is what the Kipper family is counting on. Kip’s Toyland location has historically benefited from heavy foot traffic from LA residents and tourists drawn to the Original Farmers Market and then to the nearby Grove Mall, Kipper said.

Over the years, the store has overcome challenges such as nearby store openings by the now defunct toy giants FAO Schwarz and Toys R Us, and the rise of Amazon.com. Kip’s abandoned his electronics business years ago because he was unable to compete on price with big box retailers like Best Buy, but he sold the change as a positive choice, claiming that he would not sell any toys that required an electrical outlet.

“Retro,” “classic” and “vintage” are some of the words the Kippers use to describe their toy inventory. It’s a compact display case that features a mix of old-fashioned and contemporary dolls, games, trains, and other toys. The most expensive items are the complex Lego sets.

Kipper was willing to quickly give up what wasn’t working well – like the store’s efforts at online sales – and focus on the things that were working. Since the start of the pandemic, the store has provided mental health and entertainment for adults and children stuck at home with little to do and nowhere to go.

” Riddles. We couldn’t get enough puzzles for the adults, ”Kipper said,“ and I think it was a common challenge for everyone. Parents love them. And there were people who would come and buy several at a time. Likewise, board games for kids were popular and, again, things like Legos that they wouldn’t get bored with in five minutes.

The Kippers are confident their early shopping spree will keep them well stocked for the holidays.

Lily Kipper, 33, said her 75-year-old father told her, “You don’t have a budget, buy whatever you can. Every day I would wake up to emails at 4 am that said, “Sorry, it’s out of stock” and “Sorry, it’s sold out” and “You can’t get it.”

In the end, the store acquired so much merchandise that the staff told them, “I don’t know where we’re going to store all of this. “

She thinks the store is as ready as it gets.

“When the holidays come around and everyone’s exhausted, we want people to ask, ‘How come you still have this in stock? ”Said Kipper. “Because we did our homework. “

From left to right, Jack Norris, 7, his sisters Avery, 2, and Harper, 9, along with their father Lance, visit Kip’s Toyland, located inside the Old Farmer’s Market, on September 22 in Los Angeles . Behind the counter is store manager Jay Ortiz.

About Jun Quentin

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