President Biden downplayed the supply-chain crisis that’s bedeviling American consumers as he compared the looming shortage of Christmas presents to past years when fads caused popular toys to fly off the shelves.
“Now, I can’t promise that every person will get every gift they want on time — only Santa Claus can keep that promise,” Biden said on Wednesday.
“But there are items every year that sell out, that are hard to find.”
He added: “Some of you moms and dads may remember Cabbage Patch Kids back in the ’80s or Beanie Babies in the ’90s or other toys that have run out at Christmastime in past years when there were no supply chain problems.”
Biden also tried to reassure shoppers that stores will be stocked in time for Christmas, saying he met Tuesday with CEOs of major US companies — FedEx and UPS — who vowed they’re on track to deliver more packages this year than ever.
But the reality of this holiday season appears to show that it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been naughty or nice — some gifts will still be hard to find.
The dual effects of the supply chain bottleneck and inflation, which is at a three-decade high, have made many basic goods hard to find, including bicycles, cars, clothing, furniture, food and even Christmas trees.
According to Adobe Analytics, which tracks one trillion visits to US retail websites, out-of-stock messages are up 169 percent from last year and 258 percent from two years ago.
“Supply chain problems of this magnitude have not happened in recent memory,” said Craig Johnson, president of the Customer Growth Partners consulting and research firm.
“A lot of Christmas stuff is perishable in the sense that the peak demand is in October through December and if the delivery of certain items like coats are delayed, the manufacturer doesn’t recover that sale.”
In a pessimistic prediction, Johnson added, “We see a $12 billion impact in terms of lost retail sales due to a shipment not arriving on time. That represents about 1.5 percent of fourth-quarter sales of $813 billion.”
Gerald Storch, a former CEO of Toys R Us and Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns Saks Fifth Avenue, said, “Anything with a computer chip in it is harder to find right now.”
Also scarce, he said, are “any products that were made in Vietnam, where the factories shut down during the Christmas period.”
In a blog post, Juli Lennett, a toy adviser for the NPD Group market-research firm, said, “I made a list of the top selling toys over each of the last four weeks, based on NPD data.”
“In my Black Friday visits to three of the top 5 retailers in the U.S., I was unable to find 14 of the top 34 toys and only six toys were found at all three,” she wrote.
“While visiting alternative store locations and their online sites, I was able to find additional toys that weren’t in stock at the first stores I visited.”
Isaac Larian, the CEO of MGA Entertainment, is among the toy makers struggling with the supply bottleneck.
“I can see an ocean full of containers,” Larian told CNBC of the view from his Malibu home of ships lined up outside the Port of Los Angles. “Ship after ship after ship full of containers waiting to unload.”
He said his company’s inventory of LOL Surprise, Rainbow High and Little Tikes can only meet around 65 percent of its orders.
And he expects sales this year to grow by only 18 to 20 percent over last year.
Other popular toys that will be hard to find this year include Tonka Trucks, Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Stunt Tire Playset, and LEGO Super Mario Adventures With Mario Starter Course, according to Parade.com.
A survey by accounting firm KPMG found that 82 percent of retail executives polled said they are “somewhat” or “very concerned” about inventory shortages this year.
“I can’t remember a time when the concern about inventory was that significant,” said Scott Rankin, national advisory leader for the consumer and retail team for the KPMG US Advisory practice in Boston.
The Republican National Committee blasted Biden for pushing his $2 trillion Build Back Better social spending package as Americans confront a challenging holiday season.
“Skyrocketing prices, empty store shelves, and broken supply chains are the hallmarks of Biden’s failed Build Back Broke agenda,” said spokeswoman Emma Vaughn in a statement released after the president’s remarks.
“Americans are enduring one of the most expensive holiday seasons in history, but this won’t stop Biden and Democrats from pumping trillions in wasteful spending into our economy that will only make inflation worse. If Biden’s plan is empty shelves and higher prices, then he’s right – it’s working,” she said.