A weekly podcast with the latest e-commerce news and events. Episode 277 is a review of the early 2021 holiday forecasts and a deep dive into all the issues that will effect this holiday season.
Holiday 2021 will be one of the most uncertain holiday events in modern retail history. Major disruptions to the supply chain, the last mille, and to consumer behavior as a result of covid, will make this year extremely hard to predict and manage for brands and retailers. Will shipageddon 2.0 play out again this year? Will the supply chain become the supply pain? With Amazon and Target starting holiday deals early in October, and consumer still looking for scarce inventory late into January or even February, Holiday 2021 is likely to be 5 months long.
In this episode we break down all the potential issues, and make some prediction about how it might all play out.
Episode 277 of the Jason & Scot show was recorded on Sunday October 3rd, 2021.
[0:24] Welcome to the Jason and Scot show this is episode 277 being recorded on Sunday October third 2021 I’m your host Jason retailgeek Goldberg
and as usual I’m here with your co-host Scot Wingo.
[0:40] Hey Jason and welcome back Jason and Scot show listeners,
Jason this is a really good time for listeners to pause because we’re going to do a deep dive here so that means it can be a little bit of a longer episode.
And leave us that five-star review this episode is going to be so good you can go ahead and pre leave us the five star review so we’ll wait for second for you to come back.
All right thanks for doing that that really helps us out as we get the word out about the show,
Jason last year at and I went back and had a one of our many interns look at this and it was exactly this time last year I think was actually October 2nd recording this in October 3rd so it’s a pretty darn close.
We coined and we were doing our annual holiday preview and we both coined and predicted ship again and that is where we saw
pretty early on I think before a lot of the rest of the folks in the industry that there was going to be both a surge in digital
adoption due to covid plus the normal holiday increase from e-commerce
and that that was going to more than absorb all of the available last-mile demand and that’s the why we coined ship again
and it happened and it was bad but we all survived and made it through and hopefully the folks listening to this show got in front of that both on their business and personal side.
[1:58] Well this year we want to use this episode and do a deep dive into what that’s going to look like
this year and it’s a more complex situation last year was pretty easy to lie to read those tea leaves because you know we were already pretty close to capacity before covid and it was kind of pretty easy prediction to say that we’re going to far exceed the ability to deliver the packages.
This year we have a lot to unpack for you spoiler alert it’s going to be worse than last year much worse because not only is it that last little piece of the whole
digital retail chain of events The Last Mile that’s going to be a problem but it’s all the other pieces leading into it that are going to be a problem
something we call the supply chain but this year we are going to call it the supply
pain so we’re going to peel the onion on this and first we’re going to look at the economic setup heading into holiday 21 then we’re going to look at the global state of supply chain
then we’re going to look at some of the holiday trims that are kind of factors we think that are going to tie into this
last some of the pontificate errs are out with their forecasts and we’re going to go through those and kind of see what we think about those.
Jason want it could suck kick it off with the economic setup coming into holiday 21.
[3:15] Yeah awesome Scott so first of all let me start by saying on the macroeconomic picture most of the professional analysts that look at this.
Are pretty uniform in feeling like the consumer is generally in a good place that the economy is in a pretty good place and they are all very bullish on the consumers ability to spend this holiday.
And I say that because my own personal feeling is that there’s a little more uncertainty cooked in there there certainly are some encouraging favorable things.
And there’s a few worrisome things and I think.
What’s going to become the theme for all of these sections we talked about today is there’s a significant amount of uncertainty there’s a lot of things that could swing either way and have a dramatic impact on holiday so.
It is what it is but.
Sort of giving you how I look at the macroeconomic situation the first thing we’ll talk about is inflation and there’s a bunch of ways to look at inflation but a simple one is there’s this thing called the Consumer Price Index which kind of.
Factors in how much of each good consumers purchase and how much prices are raising for that,
and the the CPI is it about 5.25% right now so that’s pretty significant we more expensive Goods that consumers are having to pay.
And ordinarily that inflation can be problematic for the economy a couple of things to know though.
[4:43] If you kind of look at the shape of that CPI it actually is going down a little bit from a peak in July and so possible we’ve seen the.
Peak of inflation and it’s starting to come back down.
Inflation is a mixed bag for retailers and holiday because they get more money for everything they sell they tend to sell less stuff but make more on each in certain circumstances it can be more profitable.
Um but you know the goods are costing more we’ve got this 5.25 percent inflation.
We also though have a pretty significant increase in wages so people are getting paid more for their work,
particularly low-income people,
are getting paid more for work retailers and warehouses and all kinds of companies are having to raise their wages to compete for the for this labor force that’s been hard to find right now and so,
wages are going up and in general the analysts would call those two things Awash that that consumers.
Are getting bigger paychecks and they’re having to spend more on their necessities and that at the moment that’s about Break Even so two interesting things to know.
[5:52] A kind of predictor of future spending is this this huge survey that University of Michigan does every month the consumer confidence index.
And when when we were kind of in the peak of recovery from the first wave of covid-19,
that index was a leading indicator that said consumers were starting to feel good about the economy and it hit like it’s this index it over a hundred today it’s sitting at 71,
which is the lowest point since January of 2019 it’s not,
like a historic low or anything like that that you know you go like oh it’s way below normal,
but it does appear that consumers are in general feeling less good about the economy than they were,
um you know just a month or two ago now there’s a bunch of political news out right now and there was fear of government shutdown that we’ve already averted and those kinds of things have a big impact on the consumer index oh.
[6:49] Um I that consumer index doesn’t have a perfect correlation with spending so I don’t spend too much time thinking about it but just to know,
that’s a number that had been favorable and is kind of shrinking down.
A big one we talk about is unemployment because people don’t have jobs it’s hard for them to spend on Goods obviously at the beginning of the pandemic we had a huge spike in unemployment,
unemployment is actually pretty good right now we’re at five point two percent.
The kind of pre-pandemic average was about four so we’re not all the way back to pre-pandemic average but that pre-pandemic.
[7:22] Point was a historic low so historically 5.2 percent is pretty decent for unemployment.
Um so like most most analysts would say that’s a favorable indicator the two things to know there is,
that’s based on the people that are seeking jobs and not getting it there actually is a ton of people that kind of took themselves out of the workforce we.
Fully understand where all those people went but a big chunk of those people were second incomes for household so like a lot of women.
That like maybe don’t have as good a help childcare as they had before or more school challenges or things and so they haven’t gone back to the workforce and many of them are seeking work so they don’t show up in the unemployment number so.
Just be aware like household incomes are somewhat stressed because of that factor and then as we’ve talked about before on this show like as of July.
People that make over $60,000 a year the unemployment is actually ten percent better than it was before the pandemic so they’re doing great.
And the low-income people that are making less than $30,000 a year their unemployment is still 21 percent lower than it was.
The beginning of the pandemic so so a little bit of a bifurcated recovery on the jobs thing.
[8:38] One of the reasons that we historically have that we had high unemployment was because there’s all these rich benefits this enhanced unemployment benefits that people got that all expired last week.
So if people were staying at home because they could make more and unemployment that that justification probably ended.
The bad news is that ended in 26 States over two months ago and in general the data shows that people did not rush back to work when it ended.
So there’s not necessarily a reason to think a ton more people are going to rush back to work now that that it’s ended everywhere but we’ll have to see.
Um the other macroeconomic things all these natural disasters are negative to the economy so you know when hurricane Ida takes a hundred billion dollars out of the economy that’s a bummer.
[9:25] Another hugely favorable one in the one that most of us are hanging our hats on that are looking for a good holiday is the savings rate and this is the most unprecedented recession of all times.
Unemployment you know went way up at the peak of the pandemic but so did savings which has never happened before,
and part of that was because we had all this stimulus money we were pouring into the economy but the savings rate normally hovers around 8% it shot up to 32 percent during the peak of the pandemic,
it’s way off of that Peak it’s a nine point six which is still a little higher than it was before the pandemic and that.
All that extra money that a lot of household socked away because they got the stimulus and they spent less during the the peak of the pandemic.
[10:18] Arguably puts consumers in a good place to spend for this holiday the counter-argument would be all that stimulus.
Is mostly over there still are you know very lumpy employment situation and a lot of that savings has dwindled,
um so we’ll see how it goes,
um but then the last fact I’m going to throw up before I go at Scott get a word in edgewise is that the stock market has done phenomenally right and,
we’re way up from the pre-pandemic level and so the investor class and people that have you know as a meaningful portion of their wealth.
Tied to the market.
Did terrific right and so if there is economic uncertainty and instability in this economy it’s bifurcated and it’s the lower-income people that like do not have equity in the stock market.
Um there were her but roll all that up and the the professional analysts feel like.
Macroeconomic situation all to all in is pretty good and of course when rich people do well that help certain sectors of the economy quite a bit right and at the moment luxury and jewelry are doing phenomenally well for example so.
That’s kind of my snapshot of the macroeconomy Scott anything you’d violently disagree with or anything you pay particular attention to.
[11:45] I think I think that’s right I think you know there’s a lot of folks that feel the inflation the CPI isn’t the right inflation number it’s kind of this old metric.
This basket of goods and doesn’t capture a lot of things you know there’s,
I follow a lot of the crypto people and,
so there’s been a huge wealth creation through crypto and that whole world which is kind of interesting and then you know
there’s there’s a feeling that the FED has pumped so much cash into the system that is just sloshing around and kind of crazy ways which is why you saw that savings rate
kind of go up as high as it did and you know they’re they’re talk track goes that that’s why we’re not seeing as much employment where folks have taken so those free
free dollars and and you know.
Done something with it so that they don’t need a job now or they’re going to be less likely to enter the workforce but I think at all.
Yeah I would say I agree with the analysts on that it’s going to be a pretty good holiday.
[12:51] But I think the problem we’ll get into that as I just don’t think there’s going to be a thing to buy so I don’t not sure if it matters.
[12:56] So step one American families probably have some money to spend
okay so now as we’ve already alluded to the next challenges what is the supply chain look like and what could they spend it on and Scott what’s your kind of read there.
[13:13] Yes Supply chains from those things we always talk about but then you know in in your mind you have this kind of linkage these things linked together I remember as a kid when you would cut out the little construction paper strips and make the little chain to go around.
The holiday tree there II reminds me of that and we kind of vaguely talk about it as this big,
big thing and we want to really unpack it on this episode so as a summary you know there’s
when you make a product let’s say it’s one time in a million familiar with right now is a vehicle that which is one of the more complex products or even a.
You’re relatively simple product like an electronic toy or an apparel item or almost anything it’s going to have
first of all it.
It’s going to have component parts right so there’s going to be some form of pieces that go into that I kind of mentally think of them as the Lego blocks that make up that item so if it’s a cool trendy trench coat there’s going to be obviously fabric
buttons may be a variety of fabrics and things like that so there’s generally it’s hard to make any product without there being at least 10 inputs and then many times,
thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands as you get into like iPhones and vehicles and stuff like that.
[14:33] So that’s important to remember is each one of those component parts has a supply chain right and you can’t make a widget
until its component pieces are all there so what happens is we’re seeing this really interesting and it’s hard to know the root cause or theirs
some of the economic stuff you talked about is part of it
we’re we’re just having labor shortages that cause things but then you know we’ll talk about some of this there’s we import a lot of our goods from China and they’re having all kinds of issues of their own there’s covid related things non-covered related things
but generally let’s think about the supply chain and kind of the broad sense of
you have typically the bulk of goods are made offshore some of them are are made on Shore but let’s kind of assume in this example A lot of these products are coming from offshore or at least income
the many of the components maybe there’s some assembly in the US but at least the the components for a any widget are made offshore so that’s number one so that has to be made in a factory somewhere and then shipped here so there’s the port of origin so it leaves a port in a foreign land
and then needs to come on its way to the United States for a consumer to buy it.
That Journey can go a variety of different ways will to it can go by boat or air,
the standard way that products are moved is through containers so you by everyone seemed these containers there’s all these cool.
[15:57] We just opened up here a restaurant container Village kind of a thing so you have those containers their specialized boats that carry these and
and or you can put them on airplanes.
So then they get on a boat let’s say the bulk of products do go by boat there is some by are then they have to go over the sea
and then they get to a destination port
so there’s you know there’s two ports involved with every product that comes across in a container then it has to be unloaded from that boat you’ve probably seen these giant cranes somewhere.
[16:29] Fun Star Wars fact those are the that’s where George Lucas got the idea for at-ats he saw some of the cranes and one of the ports on the west coast and thought of what if you had a giant walking robots that look like that
so those have to be unloaded and then
typically you’re going to put them on either so then when they get to the United States in one of the ports they’re going to be offloaded onto either a truck and then part of the truck that’s really critical in this is called a chassis
so if you’ve ever seen you’ve probably driven by a million of these container trucks but if you take the container off that’s the chassis part as you’ve got the front part of the truck,
then you’ve got the chassis which holds the container and then the container sits squarely on there it’s pretty clever if you think about how it’s all
been designed or that same container can be put over on rail so there are specialized railroad cars for carrying containers
and then the product goes on its way then it makes it to a warehouse and then it goes to from that fulfillment center it gets distributed many times do a couple
maybe from a big kind of inbound fulfillment center to some regionals to some locals and maybe even one step closer to kind of hyper local and then it gets into the last mile delivery part of the world so it gets onto the virtual shelves and then is sold and goes into that last month
[17:52] There’s there’s a lot that has to happen right in there and we’re going to go through some of the things that are not working right now and you know like any any chain any.
There’s at least common denominator problem so all that can work great and if you don’t have Last Mile Vehicles then you’ve got a problem or,
the factories aren’t making things fast enough then the whole chain is compressed and you’ve got this other set of problems and you know where we are now is almost every single part of that chain I just walked through
is is kind of you know sport or in a bad situation right now and we’ll take you through some examples.
Jason let’s start with factories what’s going on there.
[18:34] Yeah well a couple challenges with factories so obviously the we have the most factories in China and the good news with China is.
Covid is mostly under control they definitely have had a.
A spike from from Delta they almost had had down a zero before Delta.
[18:55] Because of their their concerns about the the virus they have China has what’s called the zero covid policy and what that means is.
If they have a single case of covid they will they will shut down an entire business or.
Even a sector of business so while there’s not huge outbreaks of covid and factories right now.
There have been a bunch of examples where only a few cases of covid showed up and that caused a factory to be closed for two weeks so there there have been some disruptions with the Chinese factories.
But the bigger problem has been that it,
from before and in the very beginning of covid a lot of manufacturing got Diversified and moved out of China right and so the second biggest manufacturer of apparel behind China right now is Vietnam.
Vietnam has had a lot of trouble with Delta and about a third of the factories in Vietnam are shut down right now so a lot of the factories that make goods are not making as many Goods either because.
[19:56] They don’t have very good access to vaccines and they’re having covid problems or they have really rigid government policies like China.
And then forecasting a future problem that’s a huge Debbie Downer,
is China is actually experiencing a real energy crisis right now and China always has to kind of,
ration electricity and they give quotas at the beginning of every year to these factories and factories often have to shut down because they exceed their quotas.
Well this year like they have less.
[20:31] Energy capacity in China for a variety of reasons in the cost of coal has gone way up.
Um there’s there’s fixed pricing for for energy in China and said the producers can’t charge you more even though the cold cost more and so they have less incentive to make it which means there’s less energy and so
there’s a lot of fear that there’s going to be a ton more slowdowns of Chinese factories because of this looming energy crisis so all of those things.
Our kind of conspiring to make like the amount of product available from the factories like.
Significantly inconsistent and hard to.
[21:12] And then say the call thing and because I have read a couple articles on this and I haven’t under Center so they’re in an attempt to be green they’ve lowered the price of coal so cold manufacturers have stopped making goals that.
[21:26] So I think that’s what the the green thing has a significant impact here but the the communist country they set the the.
[21:37] The energy industry is a tightly regulated industry and so the prices are fixed so that so the government decides the beginning of the year what the price of electricity is going to be.
[21:47] So then these factories are only allowed to charge that price or plus or minus 10% of that price,
and coal is four hundred percent more expensive so a lot of factories don’t want a lot of power plants don’t want to make energy electricity from coal right now because they can’t do it profitably,
they don’t have permission from the government to charge for hundred percent for their electricity but they’re having to pay 400 percent for their coal so.
There is less production because of that it is also absolutely true that China has some,
zero emissions by wants a 2060 things and they have concrete milestones in place every year and so even before cover that constrain how much electricity they were going to be able to make this year with current production means.
And it meant that factories had a quota,
um and and often that means Factories do periodically shut down when they use up their quota factories are rushing to get more efficient so they’re all its,
it’s like everything it creates all these Downstream effects whatever equipment you use to make your stuff there’s probably a more energy efficient version of that equipment that you now want to buy.
But it’s hard to get your hands on so all the factories are competing for the more energy-efficient versions of all this this materials,
but the it’s likely that more factories are going to be shut down for longer this year than ever before because of energy shortages.
[23:14] And I saw an interesting graphic I forget
I think is there Bloomberg or Wall Street Journal where the government then said well if you’re going to shut down energy they created these zones and they put like a lot of that Apple manufacturing plants in The Greener zones that we get more power but then they neglected a lot of the input parts so.
But the factories that can make the iPhone 13 or operating but they’re sitting there idle because the the red zones that aren’t getting a lot of power or only able to run like half a shift are.
[23:44] Per your point like even if the Lego factories allowed to make Lego castles if they’re not allowed to make red blocks.
It’s tough to make a lot of weight so castles so that that is yeah.
It’s a mess and then to give you an idea how cute it is normally they only shut down the the industrial areas there’s so much constrained energy now that they’re starting to shut down residential areas so people are.
Are like having their power in their residences turned off as well.
[24:14] Interesting and then I’ve been tracking ports here in the US very closely but what are you seeing at ports of origin in other countries.
[24:24] Well this is one we’re very publicly this zero covid policy that China has instituted has come into play.
So that that all the biggest ports in the world are in China the third largest port in the world is divided into four terminals one of the four terminals was just shut down for two weeks because of a single.
Positive test of covid and so that again to the extent that the factories are making stuff and they need to load up all those containers,
um if they have to stop loading for 2 weeks that that creates a real lumpiness in the in the supply chain and that is a particularly hard thing to predict right like if you’re just saying like oh man of.
Factory you know has a bunch of sick workers it’s going to shut down you can kind of watch that and see it coming but what you can’t see coming is,
you know a very small number of cases having a very material impact on the supply chain like these these ports that are shutting down and so the.
The those impacts are sort of outsized on the supply chain at the moment.
[25:34] Yeah and then so so now we’ve got our products you know,
if they can make it through this Gauntlet that we’ve already laid out they’re going to get on a boat and they are going to go get
packed into a container and there’s a fun if you’re a business you’re trying to get as much of this product into a container as possible because it’s pretty much all you can eat once you once you buy a container there’s fractional containers whatnot
and because of there’s a shortage in containers and then the cost to send these containers has gone way up
so right now as we record this the cost there’s actually an index you can look at this so if you were will put a link to show notes but if you Google Freight Fredo’s fre IG HT o s index there’s an index that tracks this and we have hit a record of
20500 86 average dollars to send a container and that’s twice what it was in July of this year
and that was twice of what it was in January so we effectively you know in July it was about ten thousand dollars and in January as about five thousand dollars now
another interesting Factor here is depending on how many units you put in a container you divide that
that unit cost right so if you’re putting I’ll keep the math easy a thousand units in one of these containers which would be something relatively big you’re going to you know you just added effectively another.
[26:57] Let’s see I should have smelled your $15 to the product just in kind of Landing cost with this with this increase so whatever your cost is on a per unit it’s gone up
effectively 4X since January so that’s a factor to consider.
[27:15] And what I’m what I’m hearing from people on the ground is you’ll go bid and you kind of get get in front of this number right now so you’re actually out there bidding today
30,000 to get a container and then you think you’ll have one and then they’ll say oh you know we need to re-evaluate that because they can
the shipping company I’m talking to is now saying is 33,000 so there’s this like running auction to get.
Space on these boats that are coming over because of some of the rest of the supply chain that will talk about so.
[27:46] So how about are so that’s that’s what it looks like by boat what are you seeing on the air side.
[27:51] Yeah and obviously the most cost-effective way to get all this stuff here is via boat so you’d prefer to do that but when the boats aren’t available or if you you need stuff considerably faster like a,
in Good Times it takes about about 40 days to move a container from China to the west coast of the US so.
Some Goods do come via air and little known fact 50% of Air Freight that comes into the u.s. comes on the bottom of,
passenger airplanes right so it’s not it’s not FedEx and UPS planes flying from China to the US cargo planes it’s,
it’s the bottom of these passenger planes and guess what is not happening right now is.
International so there’s just way less flights and said there’s way less capacity for this Air Freight and so both,
because there’s more demand for Air Freight because of all the problems with the ocean Freight and because there’s less Supply that the air option has you know been dramatically diminished from where it would normally be.
[28:56] Yep so then
so then you decide okay well I’ve got to put on a boat you do that you wait your 40 days and then what you find out is your delayed for a very long time because the heart problem is the
u.s. ports are all pretty much maxed out so we’ve kind of done this very big under-investing in our ports so one of our
our biggest one is in Los Angeles at Long Beach and then we have Savannah New York New Jersey and then there’s a lot of secondary and tertiary ports but those are the big ones and there’s another index that Bloomberg,
puts out which is effectively the number of boats that are anchored offshore and you know what you want to you never want to Anchor these things because effectively they’re just sitting there all that product just sitting there you know.
Doing nothing waiting and the reason the reason why they’re sitting there is the ports are they can’t unload the products fast enough.
[29:55] There’s a million reasons why we’ll talk about that in a second but this just actually ticked up over there’s over 40 boats,
and this is interesting I’ve read a data point this has 74 Los Angeles and 40 I think there’s 40 anchored in 30 actively kind of
being done there’s these Maps if you look at my Twitter feed I just tweeted one to just show you know the port and the congestion there’s just all these boats just sitting there waiting to come on shore
I have a friend that lives in LA and they can just as they drive around they can just see the boats out there just fact it’s very unusual time frame.
[30:30] One of the supply chain guys I work with suggested that we should start a new company Uber barge where we deliver like In and Out Burgers to all these boats that are stuck offshore.
[30:39] Someone someone tried to actually get a helicopter to go out one to get their container often.
You can’t do that because if you’ve ever seen these things are stacked like 50 deeper someone is crazy you can’t just say I really need that one right there so this this index just ticked over 70 for the first time ever since has been created which is just just crazy.
[31:00] And so why is it taking so long to offload the boats well we have under invested in these things and then we have this discontinued problem with the supply chain.
Number one there’s not enough people to I think it’s longshoreman there’s a lot of these Union type jobs that you hear about that do this so there’s a longshoreman or the ones that
offload products for a long time due to covid they were only running like half the number of shifts that used to so they have actually spun that up,
they’re running more shifts but now there’s a shortage of chassis and then because of that.
[31:37] You know if you don’t have chassis you can still off load the boat but now you have to put it into kind of medium term or short term storage and then all that is full
so there’s not enough chassis there’s not enough truck drivers if there is chassis and then if there’s not chassis all the storage is full and then,
the one when a product comes off the boat at the Port it can either go by truck or rail the whole rail system is all jammed up as well
the this is interesting I read this one article that.
Near you in the Joliet train yard which is one of the biggest ones in middle of the country they’re so jammed up they have over 8,000 containers stacked there waiting for more training capacity and then some some days the trains are backed up for 25 miles waiting
as they’re loading these containers on there to try to do this,
normal turnaround for a chassis to go at a port to deliver something to where it’s going and come back is three and a half days due to all these various shortages that is extended out to 17 days so that’s pretty crazy.
A big factor in this port jam up is also the shortage of drivers and I call them CDL Drivers which is a commercial driver’s license.
[32:49] To drive one of these 18-wheelers that’s going to carry a container you have to have a you know a certification for a certain type of vehicle there’s It’s relatively,
no time-consuming to go get the certification and the number of drivers that have this is actually decreasing over time as they age out and enough people are coming into the profession so I read one article and this was by one of the
one of the professional groups of CDL drivers that there’s about 240,000 shortfall of CDL Drivers compared,
kind of where the demand is there’s about you call it to and 50,000 fewer drivers than they need so we’re seeing
you know I think I can remember was you or someone but Amazon and Walmart are ineffectively
gunfighter these people where they’re charged their they’re paying crazy signing bonuses and hourly rates and salaries for any kind of truck drivers and so because they’re the biggest.
Employers of these things they tend to have the better economics and its really starving out other parts of the market as they absorb all the available CDL drivers.
[33:57] Yeah that Walmart’s paying a hundred and for a new driver $160,000 a year and eight thousand dollar signing bonus.
[34:04] Yeah yes it’s not uncommon uncommon thing to see out there it’s pretty crazy,
so that’s what’s going on at the ports it is a hot mess on this side as well so even if you are fortunate enough to get your product here to the US then you know you’re looking at probably an extra 40 days I think is kind of
you know what everyone’s saying right now and that’s average it can take a lot longer the LA Port is so jammed up that people are are they’re rerouting you know
rerouting boats across the sand getting them to other
other ports but there are no like there’s one in Georgia and it’s the Savannah one and it’s getting backed up I just saw they authorized building this this kind of effectively opening up a big giant parking area to put containers and
that’s going to give them some more storage capacity but you know where if you add up those,
here we are you know in October and you start adding these things together the
the holidays pretty much baked at this point right there’s you maybe have 15 to 20 days of window here for stuff you already ordered.
80 days ago to kind of get here but none of this stuff is going to get fixed fast that’s going to be part of the problem.
[35:17] Yeah yeah if you follow the earning calls like Nike for example like dramatically lowered their guidance and they said Hey look it’s it’s cost four times as much to get a container of shoes here and the container takes twice as long to get here,
and so we’re just not going to have the supply to hit our original guidance and and Nikes better this than a lot of other people so it’s a.
[35:41] Pretty prominent problem and then there’s all these secondary impacts right so you mentioned the math of the container right like you’d like to fill up that 40-foot container with Goods if your goods only take up 90%.
Ordinarily you’d put someone else’s Goods in the last 10% to try to make it more.
Cost effective and efficient and share those costs but when the unloading is so gummed up what you don’t want to do is have a secondary process where that container comes off the boat has to get re packed your stuff goes One Way their stuff goes another way,
so people are actually shipping containers less full than they normally would which is entirely counterintuitive for what you would expect.
The boats are all slowing down because they can use less gas to come here and 80 days then to come here in 40 days because there’s no place to unload them.
Um and the the supply chain guys I’m like we’ve been helping a lot of retailers hire truckers lately and they kind of summarize it real simply like the average commercial truck driver was 55 years old with multiple comorbidities a bunch of them.
Retired and all the trucking schools that can teach people to get these licenses shut down for covid so there were no new licenses being issued for like.
[36:54] Year and so there’s just this this huge acute problem.
And then you know without those truck drivers with the train problems and Barge problems of your on the Mississippi there’s just like no place to move all those goods.
You mentioned people are moving the boats from from some ports to secondary ports.
That helps somewhat but the biggest cargo ships can’t even fit in these ports right so I Long Beach the one of the most advanced Sports we have certainly the most advanced on the West Coast,
[37:27] Can’t take the two biggest class of ships it can only take the third biggest class of ships and then as soon as you divert that ship to Portland instead of Long Beach.
The the that class of ships won’t won’t fit there and so like there’s there’s a limited option to just move the stuff around so we’re just we’re gummed up
like never before and most scary of all
Gap and their earnings call kind of said like Hey we’re loading our guidance and we’re going to very lumpy inventory and we don’t see any
alleviation of these inventory challenges until at least 2020 3.
[38:06] Yeah in the Auto World we’re having a huge problem here where there’s a chip shortage and then.
[38:14] Another problem is you spend down these factories they don’t just get spun back up because all the component parts are you know they stop ordering them and then those factories and everything so so even as chips are starting to come in
a lot of vehicles can’t be made because there’s some other component that now is stuck in one of these containers that that were talking about I read this other interesting article where
Coca-Cola has several of their bottling facilities that are down waiting on replacement parts so they went and basically least 20 or 40 bulk ships
they didn’t even worry about getting containers and they just jumped onto those ships the pieces they need to make their factories work and and are
bring him over in this kind of crazy never done before way for a big company.
[38:58] Yeah and I guess that that’s one last point on this supply chain thing.
It definitely is favoring the biggest players in every industry right so if you’re the you know the biggest receivers of goods in the US.
You’re still being impacted by all of this but you’re first in line for what capacity does exist and you you mentioned the games that the Brokers are playing with the price of containers that’s going to happen a lot more to the independent shipper than it is
the you know number one or number two shipper for that port and so.
Well this this is a pain for every retailer in America it’s going to be less painful to Walmart and Amazon then it’s going to be to the,
the medium-sized specialty retailer for.
[39:49] And I was just going to point out I think you saw this as well as got but like Salesforce kind of put together a holiday forecast and they looked at all these supply chain problems and they’re estimating,
that this is going to add about 233 billion dollars in extra supply chain cost to holiday sales for the US so that’s.
Going to come like straight out of margins basically or or drive more inflation.
[40:13] Yeah that’s for the products to get here there’s this another side of that equation where which is the opportunity cost right because you know.
There’s not gonna be a lot of exciting merchandise on the Shelf so we’re what’s opportunity cost of that we’ll have to kind of.
We’ll get to that I guess we talked about forecast so what what holiday behaviors are feeding into this.
[40:34] Yeah so tricky this one is there wild swings both ways right so you think if you remember at the beginning of covid there.
Fundamental changes that happen people spend a lot less on travel they spend a lot less on restaurants they spend a lot more on their homes and they spent a lot more grocery stores right and so then as,
people got more comfortable as people start getting vaccinated as infection rates are going down we started seeing all those things swing back right and you started seeing,
a lot more bookings that are being be you saw a lot more Airline reservations you saw a lot more traffic coming to stores and you certainly saw a lot more people going back to restaurants.
Then Delta hit.
And we saw a dip again and people started returning to the the the kind of earlier covid behaviors not as dramatically as the first wave.
[41:25] You kind of had a second wave and so predicting which of those,
behaviors are going to be at the at the peak for holiday is really hard right now so retailers are looking at consumer sentiment and Doug mcmillon in his investor call he’s like hey.
Our consumer has told a strongly they want to have a normal holiday that they want to sit down with their family and have a meal,
they want to travel they want to do the normal things and there’s a strong desire and that if it is remotely safe they will do it and Doug’s I kind of under his breath comment was.
[42:05] Even if it’s not safe they’re probably going to do it right so,
his viewing is there’s there’s so much fatigue in all of these like covid change behaviors that were going to see a significant return,
you know closer to pre covid behaviors but you know we are we are seeing some signs go the other way,
in the u.s. store traffic never fully recovered we are still down about ten percent versus pretty covid levels in China store traffic totally recovered and then Delta hit and store traffic drop back down,
30% below pre-pandemic levels and so since China has historically been about 4 months ahead of us.
That that would predict that we’re going to see another drop in.
Um store traffic which again doesn’t mean people won’t spend it means they’re going to buy more online instead of in store and that exacerbates all of The Last Mile problems that we talked about last year and we’re going to talk about it.
[43:09] Again this year so it’s really risky to predict.
What’s going to happen with the coded behaviors people were starting to buy a lot of clothes again after having not buying clothes in here and now the closed sales are slowing down and then we talked about.
Apparel is one of the categories most impacted by all these supply chain issues so there just may not be close to buy and so really hard to predict that stuff.
but what I can tell you is retailers now have a couple of reasons to desperately get you to shop earlier right one reason is they’re not going to have very much stuff and they don’t want to be the Grinch that caused you to miss Christmas so they desperately want you to come in early,
and give yourself the best chance to get the stuff you want so,
the every retailer is more loudly than ever before trying to incentivise and entice customers to shop early.
[44:03] Also if this ends up being another digital Christmas where people shop a lot more online than they do in stores,
we have a huge problem with the last mile we don’t have enough capacity in FedEx ups and u.s. post office to deliver twice as many packages over holiday,
and so we need to spread that those those orders out over more days and so for all of those reasons we’re seeing retailers start their sales earlier than ever so.
To kind of paint you a promotional picture Amazon Prime day normally is in summer it historically celebrated Amazon’s birthday which is in July.
So then the pandemic kids they can’t have a July sale so they have an October sale and it went really well.
So this year they went back to Summer but they went to earlier summer they had the sale in June and a lot of us think they did it earlier in June for one of two reasons either they hate their own C fo and wanted him to have to talk.
On earnings calls about the sale being in a different quarter every year for the last three years or.
They were having a sale earlier to make room for a second big sale they intend to have this year during holiday to kind of repeat the success of.
[45:11] Of holiday Prime Day last year and we haven’t seen any all the announcements yet but Amazon has already announced a 30 day.
Beauty and personal care sale starting in October of this year Target match that and said hey we’re going to start our deal days in October,
and we’re price-matching for the whole holiday so if if you don’t believe us and you think we’re just making a joke about these early sales and you think there’s going to be better sales waiter know if you buy it early will guarantee you,
that will match any lower prices that you see anywhere for the rest of holiday so targets leaning heavily into that.
And we think most retailers are going to launch their sales.
Earlier than ever before to try to pull in these these early Shoppers because of all the supply chain and inflation issues.
The sales aren’t going to be as good as they usually are like that what used to be 40 percent off is going to be 25% off but what deals they do have are going to be earlier in the year to try to drive those,
those sales earlier.
[46:21] And people aren’t going to get everything they want they’re going to be limited inventory and so what’s going to happen people are going to get more gift cards people are going to celebrate the holiday later
and we’re going to sell more stuff in January January is always a good holiday month anyway but January is going to be disproportionately large this year because of the lumpy supply chain think so,
if you think of holiday as generally like being a strong peak in October between that that the kind of turkey five,
this holiday more than ever before that spending starting in October and is going to last all the way through January.
[46:58] And then as we get to the last mile we’re definitely have another ship again so we’ve got
we haven’t increased our capacity hardly any because you can’t really buy Vans and
the everyone’s renting Vans and there’s just this fixed number of biliary vehicles and if we’re going to have this Less store traffic even more e-commerce than last year even if you throw you know maybe.
[47:23] Low middle digit low single digits on there like five or 7% or something well we effectively had 98,
we can only deliver like 97% of the packages last year so it’s going to make it a now will only be a little deliver maybe 90% of the packages so it’s going to be really tough delivery,
set up coming into the holiday.
[47:46] I think the like some data points I saw the that are alarming like so number one.
All the Fulfillment centers have an average turnover rate of like four hundred percent a year right so they’re having a hard time hiring people and keeping people.
FedEx in their earnings call said that like we just can’t staff some of our distribution hubs so we’re having to reroute packages in a less efficient manner,
because for example we only have sixty percent of our labor force in our Portland Hub right so ordinarily they would try to,
be at a hundred and twenty percent of their labor in these hubs for holiday with all this seasonal labor and this year.
[48:24] They can’t even fulfill all the permanent jobs they have so there’s not going to be a seasonal Flex.
For the main carriers you know the Retailer’s do a lot of seasonal hiring for stores but they’re prioritizing the seasonal hiring for their fulfillment centers over the stores because they’re so.
Worried about enough labor to fulfill all these packages and then you know when when FedEx and UPS have less capacity.
What do they do they smartly charge more for it so we’ve seen gas surcharges we’ve seen holiday surcharges and and they’re now announcing their rate hikes for January and FedEx announced the largest rate hike they’ve had in the last ten years so on average,
it’s almost six percent as 5.9 percent rate hike it varies wildly depending on the class of service so some kinds of shippers are going to get hit much harder.
Um and just like last year all of the the big shippers have a quota and they’re not going to be allowed to ship more more packages.
The maybe one silver lining in this is that.
Because readers are likely to be more successful in spreading the demand out this year than last year that’s going to help a little bit and.
[49:37] As a as challenges everyone’s going to be with the capacity last year there were political challenges that that particularly got the US Post Office sideways which is a big part of this whole chain.
And they don’t anticipate that that will be as bad this year and so there is absolutely going to be ship again in 2.0 this year with the,
the The Last Mile but the most of the analysts I’m talking to are saying the first mile is going to be so disrupted this year that the last mile is going to seem.
Less severe in comparison whereas last year the the holiday challenges were all about the last mile.
[50:16] Yeah and you know the double-edged sword of there not being enough product is maybe there just won’t be enough product and it won’t you should be getting but if whatever there is is going to get jammed up I think.
[50:29] Yeah so that’s a great transition to so like that’s a lot of Doom and Gloom what’s going to happen for Holiday should we all be shorting the retail stocks like what’s.
What’s going to happen.
And spoiler alert I don’t know well we’ll talk a little bit about our educated guesses but maybe before we do we can walk through some of the the forecast from the the brave souls that have been willing to share their holiday forecast.
[50:56] Yeah the one the one I saw was from Salesforce and they,
they say that e-commerce is going to be up 7% versus kind of that huge surge last year which was like you know
fifty percent so they’re coming in kind of with a moderate 7% growth which which is done yeah I think that would be the probably the slowest e-commerce growth since
[51:26] Yeah that’s that’s the one I was tracking and you know when I read through the bullet points it made sense they’re definitely putting a pretty wet blanket on things due to the this kind of quote-unquote Supply pain.
[51:38] Yeah and it is tricky so they were the only one I’ve seen that’s done an e-commerce forecast right and I would say that’s the most uncertain because.
Of we just don’t know whether people are going to go back to stores or whether they’re going to be worried about health and ordering online when they start having constrained.
Um supplies is that gonna.
Push them to online more because they can hunt more places or is that going to entice them to go to the store because they can use their eyes to see the inventory for themselves like there’s,
there’s a lot of variability in that e-commerce number but I would remind people even as low as 7 percent sounds its.
7% on top of the huge bases from last year right so it’s it’s that’s not a decline in e-commerce by any means that’s a slowing of the increase just as a reminder for.
But then I did see several like of the other the kind of traditional Consultants put together an overall holiday forecast right so beIN predicted that they were going to they thought holiday was going to be up seven percent from last year.
[52:45] Deloitte said that they thought holiday was going to be up between seven and nine percent from last year.
And MasterCard said they think holidays going to be up 7.4 percent from last year so.
To put all three of those numbers in context those are all huge numbers.
Um last year was the best holiday year in 10 years and sales were up 10% but the average is about 6% so saying we’re going to grow if.
You know these three things kind of all averaged out to about seven percent growth if we’re here we go.
If all holiday store an e-commerce gross 7% on top of the ten percent from last year,
that’s a phenomenal holiday and so that says,
that these guys are pretty confident that the consumer is going to spend even if they can’t find exactly what they want right that the supply chain is going to be painful but that the
all the macroeconomic stuff we talked about at the beginning is going to win out and consumers are going to spend a lot of money this holiday I.
[53:49] I want to believe this I’m going to be pleasantly surprised if it plays out like that right and my um,
the the one caveat I’ll say is that us retail is incredibly Diversified right and so for every category that’s going to get shellacked by the supply chain or by changes in covid behaviors.
Some other category is going to benefit right and so.
It is true that the holiday could absolutely hit these numbers like I’ll remind people that cars are 25 percent of retail sales gas is another huge chunk of retail sales.
Some of these forecasts have those things in some don’t some of these forecasts are for November and December some are for November December and January like everybody has a different definition of retail and a different definition of holiday so,
you can’t really apples-to-apples any of these but I pulled all the US Department of Commerce data and again last year November through January 10 percent growth,
average of the last ten 10 years is about 6% growth so 7% growth is a.
A terrific number and.
I don’t know I could see it happening if it happens it’s going to be because there was a we had the most Monster January ever because I just don’t think there’s going to be enough Goods on the Shelf in November and December to do.
[55:17] Yeah I’ll take a so I think the winners are going to be the companies that have the most power and smartest supply chain operators so I think Walmart and Amazon.
Maybe Target I don’t know them as well do they have a you think they feel like they have a pretty dialed in.
[55:33] They Walmart and Target both in their earnings said like look our inventory isn’t going to be isn’t where we want it it’s not going to be where we want it but we
we in general are feeling good and neither one lowered its guidance for holiday in their last earnings call so they both felt that they were going to weather the storm
but you know below that you go look at like a Bed Bath and Beyond and they’re like look there’s no way we can hit our numbers with the supply we’re gonna get.
[56:00] Will they miss this quarter and if you miss this quarter you’re just going to get worse the next quarter Seth.
[56:04] Exactly exactly.
[56:06] It’s a poop storm now and it’s gonna be a bloodbath and in 90 days yes I think I think if I kind of do the calculus on that I think those three guys win I think everyone else is net negative and.
You know I don’t think those three are big enough let’s say they represent Amazon’s kind of half of e-commerce only think about e-commerce the rest of retail is.
That’s your bailiwick yeah Amazon’s half,
yeah I could see it being flat to down five percent because.
Amazon Walmart and Target doing decent isn’t it be enough for to make up for the whole that it’s created there so yeah so that’s kind of,
where I see it it’s going to be the big get bigger and stronger and because they you know they have Prime,
they have more technologies that this has been on their radar longer they have more containers they have more trucks they have more dollars to spend on solving these problems they’re going to be the winners so that’s going to be you know it is going to be I think a bad year for
the small medium sized business the incumbent brands that are just getting their legs under them and you know having to kind of have a
Miss effectively miss a holiday because you couldn’t get a bunch of product it’s going to be be a rough rough year for everybody.
[57:25] Yeah no I in a way it’s going to be the exact opposite of last year when covid first hit nobody
obviously had Advance warning or was prepared for this and so a secondary impact was a bunch of eCommerce sites that didn’t
traditionally get a lot of consumer visits,
got a lot of Trials because Amazon constrained FBA in Amazon head supply chain problems right and so suddenly you were looking to get your instant pot from Bed Bath & Beyond suddenly a bunch of people are looking to see what eBay had,
that hasn’t shopped eBay in five or ten years right so a lot of those kind of second-tier eCommerce sites got extra visits as people were.
Trying new address the supply chain shortages this year I think we’re going to have exactly the opposite there’s going to be a ton of supply chain shortages there’s going to be a lot of,
news stories every day about supply chain shortages and the big players with the best infrastructure in the most advanced supply chain planning,
like the Amazons and Walmarts of the world and and targets,
are going to be the winners and it’s going to be a lot harder for those specialty retailers and Regional retailers to compete unfortunately.
[58:41] Yeah I think that that is the setup and we will continue so that hopefully that gives everyone an idea of the big talk in the industry and you were just at an industry event is this what everyone was talking about Jason.
[58:55] Yeah yeah slightly less than I would have expected I mean it was a huge topic everyone understands the supply chain thing.
I do think it was the first conversation a lot of you know customer experience folks and people that you know we’re kind of had their head down in their own in their own Silo you know we’re suddenly getting their eyes open to the fact that like.
Yeah your customer experience is going to stink at there’s no products on the.
[59:20] Mix the CX person’s job a lot easier they just you know just take the holiday off.
[59:26] Yeah and so you know it is interesting though again like.
[59:31] You know we may we may hit the top line numbers and it may be from a lot less items that sold more expensively.
The you know category there’s going to be winning and losing categories by far and again because of the consumer health and the supply chain issues,
the supply chain for diamonds is looking a lot better than the supply chain for Budget shoes and so you know you just may see what jury where you know you say you sell a few things for a while,
do better you know where there’s extra scarcity then you know some of these low-margin high-volume consumer goods and so I think.
[1:00:08] My key takeaways for everyone is it’s going to be a very lumpy like the averages will be interesting we should all follow them but but every.
Um retailer and every category is going to experience a very different holiday and there just is more uncertainty than there has been in the last 30 years of retail so like for anyone,
to definitively say this is how it is going to play out I think is super risky because there’s so many things that could go either way at this point,
will consumers you know by another toy when they can’t get their first choice will consumers go to a restaurant you know or not will consumers take a vacation or not.
You know all of these these will they pay 5% more for something or not like there’s just so much uncertainty that you know this is going to be.
Holiday that really rewards people that do good scenario planning and are prepared for any eventuality.
[1:01:06] Absolutely and we will keep you posted here on the Jason Scott show but hopefully this gives everyone kind of a framework to work within and we’ll be updating
various components of the supply pain as we get closer to Holiday.
[1:01:22] And until next week happy commercing!
[…] Episode 257 we talked about IDFA and the impact of privacy and digital ads, and then on Episode 277 we talked about Supply chain pain (SupplyPain™). Now that we’re in Q3 earnings season […]