Crazy year could get crazier

THERE may be twelve weeks to Christmas, but some of the biggest toy stores and clothing outlets have already issued warnings about product availability.
Problems in the supply chains is going to create shortages in-store with some retailers already warning customers that up to 10% of their lines will not be available in Ireland.
Irish doll manufacturer Ian Harkin of Lottie Dolls in Letterkenny has urged people to get their Christmas lists sorted out earlier than ever this year.
“I don’t like pushing Christmas early but, this year, I think that’s there too many different, variable things happening across the world and I do foresee some shortages,” he said.
Hampered by the closure of factories across China as well as shipping and container shortages, it has already been a ‘crazy year’ for Mr Harkin and his Lottie Dolls team.
“A lot of retailers and small toy companies like ourselves are affected and costs have gone through the roof. It’s the toughest year we’ve faced since we started in 2005. The toy industry is directly affected by the price of oil (plastics) and barrel prices are nearly double what they were this time last year,” he said.
“Two years ago the average cost of shipping a standard 40-foot container into the US was $3,500. Last Christmas is was $9,000 while the spot price for sending such a box from China to Los Angeles is now nearer $20,000,” he added.
Luckily, Mr Harkin made the decision to ‘bite the bullet’ and ship fifty per cent of his Christmas product out of China in July. Since then, prices have continued to rise.
“At the moment, we’ve fourteen shipments still to leave China but hopefully they won’t get caught up at the ports and we’ll see them inside the next month or so,” he said.
Lottie Dolls are shipped from China to the US, the UK and into Germany.
“Germany does all the EU orders, including Ireland which used to be run through the UK until Brexit came in which caused us a few problems last year,” he said.
A combination of Covid and lockdown meant that the company’s distribution business was down significantly last year but online sales exploded.
“The whole distribution side of the business stopped last year because the shops closed but the online pick-up more than made up for the drop in orders from our distributors and we ended up having a pretty good year.
“This year started off extremely well until some of the delays and shortages of stock started happening. It’s going to be the most interesting Christmas we’ve ever experienced in 16 years manufacturing and importing from China.
“Some of their ports are shut while there’s a lack of containers. Power in down to one day a week in factories while the container boats are backed up in LA,” he said.
While Lottie Dolls have managed to absorb much of the additional costs this year, Mr Harkin believes prices will ‘sky-rocket’ across the board next year.
“Pretty much everything that is being made in China will increase significantly in price next year. We’re not talking three to five per cent prices rises but more like ten to twenty per cent,” he predicted.
Dolls has been one of those sectors to have fared relatively well from the impact of lock down and Lottie Dolls will have more than sixty different products on the shelves this year.
“There’s plenty of stock in and hopefully the rest will arrive in time. It’s a problem that’s not unique to the toy industry or indeed China. I notice that there’s issues in Indonesia and Vietnam as well. I read that as much as ten to twenty per cent of Nike’s stock will not make it here in time for Christmas,” he said.
IKEA are one of the retailers who’ve been out early, warning customers that up to 10% of their lines won’t be available in Ireland.
“Toymakers, sellers and parents are all facing additional challenges this year but I’m sure all will be well come December 25,” he said.

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