So you are trying your best to keep your redemption counters, stores and wall displays full and looking good. You are trying to keep those crane games and merchandisers filled up and alluring. It is getting harder though. Your old favorites have been unavailable for months and you have wiped your favorite vendors out of your normal items. Now you have tried items you have never utilized before and they flew off the shelves as well. What? They are now out of all those second string prizes as well? Now you are reaching out to companies you never tried before. You might have found a morsel or two but it was not long before they were wiped out of everything as well. All those companies are saying that supplies should be in at the end of the month. If it is the end of the month then they meant the end of next month. What is happening? If you are like me you cannot stand seeing open spaces in your counter displays or walls. It is downright embarrassing! Please Lord do not let another operator/fec owner see this! What is going on? Everything used to flow so well. Vendors used to call to pawn off truckloads of garbage we would turn our noses up at, that now we would pay a premium to have. Unfortunately our favorite cheap Chinese plastic will very slowly trickle back into the market.
The first two things that have had an effect on shipping logistics are of course that fact the world had shut downs for the pandemic. This has certainly set us back and created bottlenecks. The second would be aggressive inventory slashing. People lived by two week trips across the sea. They set inventories according to getting stock every two weeks or so. This has of course changed and now containers take much longer to be accessed. Who can really blame anyone though? Shelf space is certainly at a premium. I know we certainly think that way about our storage and our displays.
The unloading and distribution of goods has been disrupted critically by Covid-19. Port workers, truck drivers and everyone else have experienced labor shortages. Now vessels full of containers wait months to get to port. Containers in port can take months to be inspected, sorted and cleared. With shortages in all industries guess what priority there is on cheap Chinese plastic toys when medical, infrastructure and food are awaiting distribution. That coupled with astronomical increases in container rates has just pushed our industry practically off the edge. We won’t even discuss the chip shortage that has totally hamstrung the automobile industry in America. It is a disaster.
I know for a fact you savvy folks out there are dusting the shelves of Walmart, Costco, Sams, Target, Best Buy and any other big box store you can for redemption and merchandiser prizes. Heck I am sure frugal folks (like myself!) are raiding all those dollar stores as well!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. Someday these bottlenecks will work themselves out and hopefully we and our vendors will have learned from this experience. We should all hold just a bit more inventory than we feel comfortable with. If you have a good relationship with your vendor ask them if you make huge orders if they will store cases of items for you until you need them. Also do not put all your eggs in one basket. Utilize several vendors and create relationships with them. Because I can promise you that they are looking out for the customers they have a relationship with way before those of us that have been cold calling them for ducks, eggs, knobby balls etc.
There are ways through this and the cleverest of us will come out of this tunnel shining like diamonds. Utilize some of the hints given above and be creative. There are a lot of outlets out there to keep your shelves and displays full until this aftershock crisis works itself out. If you find yourself needing help ask your peers. Email me at [email protected] while I do not have all the answers I do know a lot of brilliant people in the industry that mentor me frequently.
I am really hoping we are on the last leg of this Covid storm and that these logistic troubles are just one of the final aftershocks. Here is to many prosperous years ahead where this disaster is just a distant speck in the rearview mirror and we are enjoying one another’s experiences again in the trade shows!