Christmas shopping should not suffer too much from shortages

Franz Carl Weber (FCW) says he is “ready” for Christmas. The toy store chain anticipated its offer, faced with transport difficulties and shortages of raw materials and parts. At the end of September, warehouses were filled “up to 90% of total demand for 2021”, thanks to pre-orders from the usual manufacturers, brands and suppliers, General Manager Roger Bühler explains to AWP.

“We used to be able to order products from the United States until the end of October, from Europe until the end of November and from Switzerland until two weeks before Christmas. If we’d done it again, the shelves would have been empty,” said the boss, who heads a network of some twenty stores. Impossible to take this risk, as FCW achieves half of its annual turnover over the last three months of the year.

According to Roger Bühler, rising demand in the largest toy market, North America, has monopolized already scarce resources. In addition, “all suppliers raised their prices in mid-2021. This process is complete. Prices will not go up at Christmas,” the CEO assured.

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A problem of distribution rather than production

For the holidays, the problems will not come from production, but from distribution, emphasized Emmanuel Fragnière, economist and professor at the Haute Ecole Spécialisée of Western Switzerland in Valais. “Switzerland, especially when it comes to toys, is directly affected by global supply chain problems.”

Consumers, who are used to buying goods in a few clicks, no longer realize what is hidden between the time of the order and its receipt. “The massive logistics behind it are very advanced.” Labor shortages have come to light with the Covid-19 pandemic. “There are 400,000 seafarers missing from the global supply chain”, as well as people unloading goods in ports and transporting them by road or rail, creating bottlenecks.

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As for the major manufacturers, the American giant Mattel, whose catalog includes Barbie dolls and the Uno board game, itself recently stated that it had accelerated its supply of raw materials, invested in additional machinery to ensure the production of important products and had signed contracts with shipowners beforehand.

An increasingly preoccupied system

As December approaches, FNAC Switzerland fears “more pronounced breaks than in other years on accessories and on some new products” such as computers and telephony, “in addition to the traditional strained flows on Apple novelties”. In question, the manufacturing issues were related to the shortage of chips and other microcomponents needed for this type of technology. The subsidiary of the French distributor of cultural and electronic products has no intention of “passing on these shortages” by raising prices “due to high demand”.

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Digitec Galaxus, Migros’ online sales platform, says it has “great confidence” in the holiday season. However, the situation is more tense than in previous years, for example for printers, but also for baby monitors, vacuum cleaners, coffee machines and radio story boxes for children. As for Interdiscount and Microspot.ch, subsidiaries of Coop, they “feel the delivery delays like other branches”, but the goods were bought in advance. The range of “toys and electronic devices” will be “available before Christmas,” a representative of the sites said.

Some items are not delivered on time, predicts Emmanuel Fragnière of HES-SO Wallis. The global supply chain, ‘seized’ by the pandemic, is struggling to regain its old rhythm. Logistics jobs are “highly undervalued” although they require skills. “It’s going to be a long-term problem. These are transactions that are so poorly paid that we can no longer find replacements. In Switzerland, as elsewhere, the system is likely to be “more and more seized”.

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