Today, this is a very common scenario for distributors:
• suppliers lack inventory for the products distributors want to order for customers
• there are significant delays in being able to fill orders on time
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
The situation began with a shortage of workers in factories around the world that produce raw materials, components and finished products. That was coupled with an increase in shipping costs for imported materials and products. The transportation issue was made worse by the scarcity and cost of shipping containers, available space on ships, and a shortage of dock workers to unload the ships when they got to the U.S. ports. In some cases, ships have been denied entry, because 1 crew member tested positive for COVID-19. That forced the boat to return to its country of origin to change the entire crew. These issues, combined with an increased demand for products as businesses restarted and venues reopened, created the perfect storm. The trickle-down effect of these scenarios has rocked most industries—including the promo products industry— for months.
The Wall Street Journal reported in August: The short-term solution to relieve the promo industry’s woes is to get people back to work. That is easier said than done. Government paycheck assistance along with COVID-19 infection concerns have made many people rethink the jobs they held prior to the pandemic. In addition, 2.5 million people retired during the pandemic compared to just about half that number in 2019. In China, factories are having difficulty filling jobs because workers are staying home amid COVID-19 fears, and many young workers are rejecting factory jobs in favor of higher pay in the service industry.
WHAT IS BEING DONE?
Suppliers are trying to warehouse larger quantities as much as possible to meet the demand. Like in many other industries, the long-term effect of the supply chain issue will mean higher prices. Suppliers predict marketers could be forced to increase their promo budgets or reduce the number of items they purchase. The promotional products industry is dealing with the same inventory and pricing issues that people are experiencing in their everyday lives at the retail level.