If all the Christmas presents are hanging on a ship somewhere, why isn’t toy store owner Don Kipper worrying?
Kipper and daughter Lily run Kip’s Toyland, which is believed to be the oldest toy store in Los Angeles, and Kipper the Elder claims he really isn’t worried about massive global supply chain issues that have panicked both small traders and large retailers about whether or not to will receive all the goods they need for the all-important Christmas business.
Months ago, the dumpers realized that the family-run company’s classic toys are getting harder and harder to come by and that they take longer. The purchasing department – this is Lily – was in full swing long before the full extent of the supply chain chaos was visible, ordering far more than usual in case products were held up in transit.
“We knew this was going to be an issue,” said Kipper, whose father Irvin opened the store in 1945 after being released from a WWII POW camp and looking for fun work. “You have to do everything to keep the goods in business.”
Now it’s a wait game to see if they have enough Lincoln logs, pick-up sticks, dolls, board games and the like in stock. Pretty much everything in the old-fashioned store, which has been on the Original Farmers Market landmark since 1956, travels by cargo ships from Asia, Kipper said.
Supply chain bottlenecks are delaying products, driving prices up, hurting businesses and slowing economic growth so much that President Biden stepped in on Wednesday announcing that the Port of Los Angeles would be operational 24/7 Efforts to alleviate logistical congestion similar to that of a pilot began recently through the neighboring Long Beach port.
The toy industry is particularly vulnerable to delivery delays as 85% of the 3 billion toys sold in the United States each year come from China, said Ed Desmond, executive vice president of external affairs at Toy Industry Assn.
“So you can see the reliance and trust our industry has to get their products here and on the shelves and stores here,” said Desmond.
But it’s not just toys. A long list of items destined for factories, retail shelves, and front doors were caught, including lumber, cars, furniture, electronics, bicycles, clothing, and shoes.
The supply chain has been disrupted by many factors: the pandemic, booming consumer demand, raging storms, the shortage of cargo ships and containers, and the lack of people willing to drive trucks or store storage and warehouse racks for the wages on offer. In China and other Asian countries, COVID-19 outbreaks have regularly closed factories and seaport terminals.
The worst traffic jam in Southern California is off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two largest cargo container seaports in the country, as dozens of ships wait at the docks for space to be unloaded. Once the ships are unloaded, the freight containers have waited an unprecedented amount of time to be loaded onto a truck or train, said Gene Seroka, general manager of the Port of Los Angeles.
Port congestion will benefit immensely from the 24-hour operation, but the new initiatives will take time to implement and the mountains of cargo boxes will take time to shrink, port officials said.
The traffic jam is not just a local problem.
A backup in the UK’s busiest trading port is a cause for concern about the lack of popular items during the holidays. Record numbers of ships are also ahead of the ports of New York-New Jersey and Savannah, Georgia, which rank third and fourth among US seaports after freight container traffic.
These are ships that are sometimes longer than Los Angeles’ tallest skyscraper, the 1,100-foot Wilshire Grand Center. Bringing them into port requires delicate choreography with port pilots and tugs to get the ships slowly through the water.
The largest can carry the equivalent of nearly 24,000 20-foot freight containers. (Although the more common size for the steel boxes today is 40 feet, the industry still uses the historical measure). If a ship of this size were to unload all of its containers in a single port, it would fill a 44-mile-long freight train, estimates Monaco-based shipping company Costamare Inc.
Some retailers and couriers have urged consumers to buy and ship Christmas gifts early or risk a must-have gift out of stock or not arriving on time.
James Zahn, associate editor of Toy Book, a leading magazine for the toy industry, advised toy buyers “to check out their local retailers. Don’t just think of mass retailing, check out some of these independent toy stores as well. “
Andrei Amodia puts toys on a shelf in Kip’s Toyland at the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
This is what the Kipper family relies on. Kip’s Toyland location has always enjoyed significant foot traffic from LA residents and tourists drawn to the Original Farmers Market and then the Grove mall next door, Kipper said.
Over the years, the business has overcome challenges like the opening of nearby stores by toy giants FAO Schwarz and Toys R Us, both of which are now gone, and the rise of Amazon.com. Kips gave up its electronics business years ago because it was unable to compete on price with big retailers like Best Buy, but it sold the change as a positive choice, saying it wouldn’t sell toys that needed an electrical outlet.
“Retro”, “Classic” and “Vintage” are some of the words that the Kippers use to describe their toy inventory. It’s a compact storefront that offers a mix of old and modern dolls, games, trains, and other toys. The most expensive items are intricate Lego sets.
Kipper was ready to quickly drop what wasn’t working well – like the store’s efforts to sell online – and focus on the things that were there. Since the pandemic began, the store has been providing health and entertainment to adults and children stuck at home with little to do and no place to go.
“Mystery. We couldn’t get enough puzzles for the adults, “said Kipper,” and I think that was a common challenge for everyone. Parents love them. And there were people who came and bought a number of them at one time. Board games were just as popular with children, and again things like Legos that they wouldn’t be bored with in five minutes. “
Don Kipper, 75, and daughter Lily, 33, run Kip’s Toyland, which was founded in 1945 by his father Irvin.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
The dumpers are confident that their early buying spree will keep them well stocked for the holidays.
Lily Kipper, 33, said her 75-year-old father told her, “‘You have no budget, buy what you can.’ Every day I woke up at 4am with emails that said, ‘Sorry, this is behind’ and ‘Sorry, this is sold out’ and ‘You can’t get this.’ “
In the end, the store bought so much that the staff said to her, “I don’t know where we’re going to be storing all this stuff.”
She thinks the shop is as ready as possible.
“When the holidays come and everyone else is sold out, we want people to ask, ‘How come you still have this in stock?'” Said Kipper. “Because we did our homework.”