It may only be early October, but local businesses are already starting to prepare for the long-term impact of the global shipping crisis that has been occurring over the past few months.
Unprecedented demand, COVID-19 complications and severe weather have led to delays across the country, and businesses being forced to pay more and wait longer for goods.
Several Los Altos businesses, including two shops on State Street – BK Collections and Linden Tree Books – have experienced shipping delays that could impact consumers in the leadup to the holiday season.
“At the beginning of the year we had some of our vendors send out notifications that shipments might not arrive, and that we need to start placing orders earlier,” said Belinda Chung, who owns BK Collections, a gift store that opened in 1978. “Also that there would be a surcharge on all the orders because the prices of shipping containers have skyrocketed.”
Chris Saccheri, co-owner of Linden Tree, has also suffered delayed fulfillment of goods.
“(Publishers’) fulfillment times have slowed down considerably,” he said. “They have had a hard time replenishing stock on things like nonbook items, specifically plush toys and stuffed animals. A lot of those come from overseas. Also, a lot of publication dates for books have been pushed back – some books all the way to 2022 – that were originally supposed to come out this fall.”
Saccheri and Chung said their customers haven’t really noticed the impact of the delays yet, but they will likely feel it as the holiday season nears because certain products may not be in stock.
“We’ve had a few books where people have come in looking for them and we’ve had to tell them that they’re out of stock and reprints may not be available for a couple of months,” Saccheri said. “But I anticipate that that will become more of the norm as the fall goes on and people do more holiday shopping.”
And while BK Collections has yet to experience a significant demand for out-of-stock items, Chung has concerns about what the future may hold.
“We’re pretty well stocked right now, again, though, it is September,” Chung said last month. “A couple of our major suppliers just said that we might not be able to receive the entire order. Let’s say if we order 50 pieces in one order, they are shipping two pieces at a time to us, rather than before the pandemic, when we would have everything 90% shipped.”
As a result, both shopowners have been putting in considerable time and effort to plan ahead for shipments. Chung and Saccheri said they are ordering high-demand products months in advance to aim to beat the holiday rush, though both still expect delays.
Some items are taking so long to ship that they’ve gone out of use, particularly at BK Collections, where Chung said many items are seasonal.
“Some garden chairs that were supposed to have been delivered in June, we still don’t have them,” she said. “And we may not get it until December, which is not very useful then.”
And while finding specific items may prove more difficult as the holidays approach, Saccheri ensured customers that Linden Tree’s bookshelves won’t be empty.
“What we have been trying to tell customers is that we will never run out of books completely,” he said. “Our booksellers will certainly never run out of books to recommend, which is one of the best things about our booksellers. So, even if you come to the store and there’s not one specific book you’re looking for, you can find something you will enjoy.”