UK toy chain warns of reduced choice at Christmas because of supply disruption | Retail industry


There will be a reduced choice of toys in stores this Christmas, and prices are expected to rise by 10% over 18 months because of supply chain disruption, labour shortages and higher transport costs, the chairman of the retailer The Entertainer has warned.

Gary Grant, the founder of the family-run toy store chain, which has about 170 shops in the UK, said the cost of shipping a container from China by sea had risen twelvefold from about $1,500 (£1,095) a container in early 2020 to nearer $18,000.

“You are going to see some inflationary pressure, and retailers are working hard to hold those down,” Grant said in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Not all stock we have is being shipped at the very latest container rates, so I think it will probably see 18 months for those prices to flow through to a significant change at retail, which might be a 10% increase over an 18-month period.”

Grant said businesses had faced a string of challenges when importing stock from Asia during 2021, ranging from a shortage of shipping containers in the places they are needed, to the closures of ports because of the coronavirus and storms.

“You couldn’t write a storybook of all the different things which have affected the supply chain from the far east this year,” Grant said.

“As a business, we are over 300 containers behind on shipping than we would be at this moment in time as we enter September.”

The toy industry has been warning consumers for some time to buy now for Christmas to avoid disappointment come December.

“You will find that there won’t be toy shops with empty shelves, like there are supermarkets with empty shelves on a Saturday afternoon,” Grant said. “But what you will find is that the range of toys available will shrink because we just won’t have the variety, as there will be so many items which are out of stock.”

Labour shortages in the UK are posing further challenges for retailers once they have managed to bring stock in from the far east, Grant said.

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He anticipates the shortage will be felt most strongly in the crucial run-up to Christmas, when staffing at The Entertainer’s warehouse usually increase threefold.

“Even when the containers arrive in the UK, they need to be shipped by articulated lorry driver and a lorry from a port to a warehouse. When we get them into our warehouse they have to be put away, they have to be sorted, repicked, packed and then dispatched via lorries to our shops that are all over the country,” he said.

“At the moment the challenges are on warehouse operatives. All year we have been talking about the lack of people picking fruit but now we are going to be talking about the lack of people picking boxes.”

Warehousing, transport and logistics firms including Amazon, DHL and Whistl have announced plans to offer joining bonuses at various UK sites in order to attract permanent and seasonal staff.


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