Global supply snags hurt toys industry


Some toy factories were forced to shut down during coronavirus outbreaks, impacting manufacturing.
Image Credit: Supplied

New York: It’s always “better to shop a little early” for the holidays, but this year, says Judy Ishayik, co-owner of a New York toy store, “We are telling people to shop for Christmas in September.”

Global shipping snags are causing shortages, delivery delays and price increases – all headaches for toy stores and manufacturers.

Ishayik’s store, Mary Arnold Toys, has been selling toys for 90 years in the upscale Upper East Side section of Manhattan.

Struggling to adapt

Like many other sectors of the US economy working to get back to normal following the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, toymakers and specialty stores have been trying to adapt, while struggling to replenish their supplies.

Some factories were forced to shut down during coronavirus outbreaks, impacting manufacturing. Shippers have been overwhelmed by demand from online sales, exacerbated by a shortage of shipping containers, while in some ports, boats wait several days to unload their goods.

In the US, trucking firms are struggling to recruit drivers. A feeling of panic was brewing ahead of the holiday season last year, with some retailers concerned that overwhelmed delivery firms like UPS or FedEx would not be able to get packages to customers on time.

But those fears proved to be exaggerated. In the end, families shopping for dolls, board games and building blocks for children stuck at home helped US toy sales jump by 16 per cent in 2020, according to market research firm NPD.

Not enough Legos

While multinationals can rely on their extensive networks, small businesses cannot. The Toy Association, an industry trade federation, launched a resource center at the end of July to help members navigate the shipping crisis, which it says could continue into 2022.

“With 85 per cent of toys sold in the US being manufactured overseas” companies face “exorbitant increases in shipping rates,” the organization said in a recent letter to legislators.

Due to the shortage of containers and space available on ships, “Many members have products stranded overseas.”

For firms like Mary Arnold Toys, even planning ahead and finding alternatives is no guarantee. Ezra Ishayik, purchasing manager for the shop, placed an order with Lego for $60,000 of the popular plastic building sets, but received only $20,000 worth of goods due to a lack of supply.

We’re ordering the maximum because of all the companies that can’t guarantee they can give us merchandise in October, November

– Ezra Ishayik, purchasing manager, Mary Arnold Toys

Blackhurst was still confident there will be toys under the Christmas tree, but said bottlenecks remain.

A global semiconductor crunch could hit the supply of electronic toys and gadgets, while a shortage of wood for furniture means “you’re talking about months and months of waiting,” she said.