Series of supply chain bottlenecks create 'everything' shortage

America’s everything shortage: Supply chain bottlenecks lead to bare shelves in retailers and pharmacies while cargo ships wait to dock and truckers struggle to keep up with demand

  • Supply chain problems that have been tormenting retailers for months are showing up in America’s stores
  • Around the country, there are shortages of goods on shelves in Target, Costco, Home Depot and Sears
  • The issues aren’t specific to any one type of good and are down to problems with shipping and distribution 
  • Cargo ships off can’t get into overworked ports to drop off goods and are hovering off the coast
  • There is a global shortage in truck drivers which is stalling distribution of goods and railroads are also jammed
  • The cost of shipping a single container from China to LA reached $20,000 last month – four times what it cost last October 
  • Some retailers are telling people to buy Christmas gifts now to ensure they arrive on time
  • There is no immediate end in sight: Biden has launched a White House supply chain task force but businesses fear the problems will stretch on for months yet 

A series of supply chain bottlenecks has created a monumental shortage of goods across America, with shelves in pharmacies, department stores, grocery stores and more sitting empty while cargo ships, freight trains and trucks struggle to distribute goods quickly enough to keep up with demand.

The shortage is not down to a lack of goods – they have been produced. But backlogs at shipping yards and rail yards across the country, combined with a lack of workers means the items aren’t being offloaded quickly enough and distributed across stores.   

Dozens of cargo ships are waiting to dock in California and further up the West Coast, but they face month-long waits. Walmart and Target have started chartering expensive private ships to ferry their cargo to ports and try to circumvent the global supply issue before the holiday rush. 

Some toy company CEOs are telling parents to buy their kids’ Christmas gifts now to avoid disappointment. And shoppers are sharing anecdotes of having to visit multiple pharmacies in order to track down medication that would have been in surplus this time last year. 

The cost of shipping is reaching exorbitant heights as a result of the kinks in the normally-functioning system. Last month, the median average cost of shipping a metal container from China to the West coast soared 10-fold from $2,000 to a high of more than $20,000 and the cost of shipping from Europe to the North Coast of America also soared. 

Freight trains are also backed up at yards in hubs like Chicago and there is a shortage of truckers able to drive goods across the country, with COVID-related delays to training meaning fewer newly-qualified truckers are taking to US roads. 

This past weekend, Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club were limiting the amount of paper goods customers could buy in parts of Long Island. In Bellport, a town in southern Long Island halfway between the Hamptons and New York City, shoppers were limited to two bundles of toilet paper each. 

At Sears in El Paso, Texas, clothing racks in part of the store were completely empty.  

FLORIDA: A Costco in Naples, Florida, ran out of toilet paper on Sunday and was severely low on other goods as the supply chain issues that have been worrying retailers for months presented themselves in stores 

CONNECTICUT:- Walmart in Norwalk was only allowing customers to purchase 1 package of paper towels and 1 package of toilet tissue. Many other areas around the store were bare as well on Sunday, October 10, as America’s supply chain problems trickled into stores 

TEXAS: Clothing racks at a Sears in El Paso, Texas, were empty on Sunday. Retailers around the world are experiencing severe backlogs due to global supply chain issues 

LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK: BJ’s Wholesale Club in Bellport on Long Island on Saturday.

NEW YORK: A Target store in Meford with half-empty shelves in the toy section. Toy manufacturers who produce goods in Asia are particularly affected by the issues. Some said they have $8million worth of goods just sitting in factories and warehouses in China, waiting to be shipped to the US for exorbitant cost 

NEW YORK: A Target store in Medford, New York, where shelves were empty in the Halloween section 

VIRGINIA: A Home Depot in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Sunday where many of the shelves were completely empty 

VIRGINIA: Entire sections of this Target store in Virginia Beach, Virginia, were empty on Sunday. Target and Walmart are hiring private charter ships to try to speed up the process and meet holiday demand 

CONNECTICUT: Empty shelves and racks at a Walmart in Norwalk, Connecticut, on Sunday.  Customers in the store were limited to one bundle of toilet paper and one bundle of paper towel because of the shortages 

In Home Depot stores in Westlake, California, and Naples, Florida, there were shortages of every day items and Target’s shelves in Virginia Beach and Atlanta were sparse. 

The CEOs of some of the nation’s largest manufacturers are facing tough calls with investors who want to know why shares are falling while consumer demand increases. 

As of Monday morning, 63 ships were anchored off LA and Long Beach Ports with wait times of up to four weeks. 

There are two cargo ships sitting off the coast of Long Island, waiting for port entry and there are 23 ships at anchor near Savannah, Georgia, with 80,000 shipping containers stacked at the city’s huge port – 50% more than usual. 

Trains at the nation’s largest railroad hubs in Chicago have been backed up for miles for weeks. 

Other manufacturers are at risk of soon not being able to produce goods because they are waiting for key components to make them. 

‘We’re praying. That’s what we’re doing,’  Steve Seeler, CEO of Seeler Industries, told The Washington Post last week. 

The company makes chemical solutions that are found in household cleaners out of its factory in Joliet, Illinois.  

TEXAS: A couple shop for towels in the otherwise empty home goods section of the Sears store in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday October 10

TEXAS: The Sears store – which once used every inch of store space – was almost entirely empty in parts on Sunday

TEXAS: A couple stocks up on water in Sam’s Club in El Paso, pushing their cart past huge, empty slots in the normally jam-packed store 

TEXAS: This Target store in El Paso – which would ordinarily be stuffed with Halloween goods – was largely empty on Sunday

GEORGIA: Baby formula was in short supply at this Target store in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday, as was Pedialyte, a popular drink to treat dehydrated babies and infants 

GEORGIA: The drinks section at a Target in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday October 10 as the supply chain issues presented themselves in stores

FLORIDA: A Costco in Fort Myers had run out of some brands of toilet paper and paper towels on Sunday. Staff in other stores were limiting shoppers on how much they could buy of one product

FLORIDA: While supply is backlogged, demand is soaring. Many retailers are worried they won’t be able to keep up with the encroaching 

Seeler hasn’t been able to buy some of the ingredients necessary to make his best-sellers because of the shortages. Now, he says he buys what is available for fear of missing out entirely later down the line. 

Toy companies are telling parents to buy their kids’ Christmas gifts now to avoid disappointment.  

‘Get out and buy toys now. If you see toys you think the kids are going to want for Christmas, pick them up now and tuck them away to make sure you have them. 

‘Right now, stores have a pretty healthy supply. We just don’t know what’s going to happen when we get down the road closer to Christmas,’ said Ed Desmond, executive vice president of the Toy Association, said. 

‘I got Tonka trucks in the south and Care Bears in the north. We’ll blow last year’s numbers away, but the problem is we don’t know if we’ll get the last four months of the year shipped. 

The supply chain is a disaster, and it’s only getting worse,’ Jay Foreman of Basic Plus! toys told Bloomberg. 

Some retailers, like Target and Walmart, are hiring expensive charter ships to try to get around the problem and fill stores again before the holiday shopping rush. 

‘Chartering vessels is just one example of investments we’ve made to move products as quickly as possible,’ Joe Metzger, executive vice president of supply-chain operations at Walmart told Reuters last week.   

At ports across the country, staff simply cannot work quickly enough to meet demand. 

‘We’re also storing thousands of empty containers at our yards because we don’t have the ability to return them. 

 As of Monday morning, 63 ships were anchored off LA and Long Beach Ports with wait times of up to four weeks

There are dozens of cargo ships waiting off the coast of Los Angeles and Long Beach, storing millions of dollars of goods on board, which is contributing to the nationwide shortage of goods in stores  

The cost of shipping from Europe and China to America’s northern coasts has grown exponentially over the last year. The cost of getting a single shipping container to America’s North West Coast from China reached more than $20,000 last month. This time last year, the cost was less than $5,000

Workers in shipping yards cannot work quickly enough to unclog the jams. Above, workers at the Port Jersey terminal on Sunday work frantically to load goods onto trucks

There is also a severe backlog of goods at railroad hubs across the country, like in Chicago (above) Some are backed up by more than 25 miles

‘The marine terminals are either out of space or they’ve reached the allocation limit the steamship lines have given them for that particular type of container,’ Matt Schrap, CEO Harbor Trucking Association told KFOR on Monday. 

Among the dozens of ships waiting off the West Coast was one that arrived from Asia on September 5. 

‘Once cargo gets here to L.A., it’s like taking 10 lanes of freeway traffic and bringing it down to five lanes. 

‘We’re still moving more cargo than ever, but it’s not enough because of the buying power of the American consumer,’ ” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of L.A.

The issues all point to continued inflation across America and the world. 

Miguel Patricio, CEO of Kraft Heinz, warned that consumers should expect higher prices as the issues wear on. 

‘Specifically in the UK, with the lack of truck drivers….In (the) US, logistic costs also increased substantially, and there’s a shortage of labor in certain areas of the economy,’ he said. 

Biden’s Build Back Better plan seeks to address the issue but some fear it won’t be done quickly enough.   

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