Merchandise delays on books, clothing and more may affect Christmas shopping

Supply chain issues partly caused by the pandemic are leading to delays for common goods — which has some local business owners on edge, and experts forecasting a shortage in supplies for the holidays.

Some Windsor business owners say they've seen major delays in goods

Biblioasis publisher Dan Wells holds a copy of a book they are publishing which took a month longer to come in than normal. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Dan Orman, co-owner of Freeds of Windsor, points to an empty spot on a shelf where one of his most popular white shirts should be. He can't keep enough of the hot-selling shirts on hand because supply chain issues are delaying off-shore shipments. 

"We have a supplier that is having problems with their containers coming over from overseas," said Orman. "We're having problems with white shirts in that particular brand."

Orman said fall merchandise is coming in about a month late. Fortunately for Freeds, Orman said they ordered early enough that they have the stock they need, and have already ordered for spring. However, he said customers need to come in early to get the best selection.

"Because when we sell out of things, it will be very hard to replace," he said.

Freeds isn't the only local business struggling to get merchandise on the shelves due to supply chain issues. 

At Biblioasis bookstore Thursday, publisher Dan Wells was unpacking boxes of books that came in that day that should have arrived a month earlier.

"It's a perfect storm," said Wells. "The pandemic itself has led to backlogs at printers, and then that is further compounded by backlogs with shippers. Once you get them printed, it's hard to get them shipped in time," he said. 

The lack of personnel available to off-load containers off cargo ships is leading to delays in the delivery of consumer goods. (Julia Wright/CBC)

The same goes for books he has ordered from various publishing companies. Wells said the fact that many printers have consolidated doesn't help matters.

"So far, it hasn't affected us unduly, but if we're ever in a position, especially over the next two months, where we need to reprint quickly, I think we're going to run into some problems," said Wells. 

"But many of my fellow publishers I've talked to are in pretty dire straits. So we're we're kind of lucky."

Worker shortage could impact Christmas shopping

Delays for common goods are being felt globally due to the supply chain being interrupted in a number of places. The lack of workers at docks in China and in North America have resulted in delays for getting shipping containers offloaded, said Peter Warrian, senior research fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

"You don't have workers to unload these things because they've been hit by COVID and it's just a huge problem," said Warrian, who also expects people may not find everything they want when Christmas shopping.

Warrian said those delays could be expected for another six months to a year.

Prof. Guoqing Zhang, the director of the Supply Chain and Logistic Optimization Research Centre at the University of Windsor said the cost of shipping goods in containers has increased three to four times compared to October of last year.

Zhang said to solve the issue in the long-term, facilities may need to be expanded.

"Of course we also look at the new technology applications for the supply chain," said Zhang, adding that warehouse capacity could be better optimised storing more goods for both online and offline purchases.

On the bright side, Zhang said the average cost of shipping in a container has gone down two per cent in the last week.


Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is an award-winning video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print.


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