The Port Delays Headache

  • Jul 22, 2021

It’s been well over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. While things are slowly returning to normal, much like the flu pandemic of 1918, we’re going to be feeling the effects for a very long time, not only in our personal lives but in our businesses as well. The pandemic has impacted every industry, including the promotional product industry – and it’s continuing to impact our world at levels we haven’t even seen. While we’re picking the pieces in our industry – trade shows and events are starting up again, people are ordering things other than just PPE, we have another hurdles: port delays, shipping delays and labor shortages.

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the US imported a total of 451.7 billion dollars worth of goods from China in 2019. Everything from clothes, furniture, electronics, and toys are manufactured in China and shipped to the United States. So that means a whole lot of product is sitting out in ports or sitting on docks waiting to be delivered. 

At the beginning of the year, a shipping container shortage saw shipping prices jump 300% as companies scrambled to find containers, and prices have continued to rise. Then we had the Suez Canal incident which saw month-long delays after that. Ports were just catching up from that when there was a COVID-19 outbreak in the Guangdong province and resulted in the shut down of several parts of the province. Guangdong is home to Yantian, which is one of the world’s busiest ports. Now, it’s just clearing the backlog of ships. At one point in June, Yantian saw at least 70 ships waiting to dock. It’s not just China that’s seeing this backlog of ships; ports in California saw at least 40 ships waiting to dock and unload their containers as well. 

There’s a mad rush to get products from China to the US before the holidays, especially as peak season starts. There’s an estimated 90-day delay in ports, and as people return to their everyday lives, demand is continuing to rise every day. We're already hearing some items are out of stock until 2022. In addition, experts are expecting this holiday shopping season to be even bigger than the last. 

So what can we do? Our advice...order early. Don't wait to order what you need for your fall or holiday events. Order now. Your best bet to make sure you get your client and employee gifts on time for the holiday season is to get your orders in as early as possible. There are six months until Christmas and with the estimated 90-day port delay, that gives you about three months from now. While this can be fairly stressful, try and have fun with it! Start your Christmas shopping in July then you won't have to worry about it!

With any luck, the port delays will ease up soon – especially with the push to get the backlog cleared by August. But if we’ve learned anything this past year, we know the best plan of all is to be prepared for any outcome! Plus there are other delays besides the ports. UPS, Fed-EX and USPS are all seeing shipping delays and many of our suppliers are requiring additional time due to labor shortages. So plan ahead! We work closely with our suppliers, but some things are out of our control....and theirs!


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