Shoppers face shortages, higher prices amid pandemic


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Vaccine supply issues continue to plague California as the state tries to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination efforts. So far 3.2 million doses have been shipped to California and 1.5 million doses administered, the state’s top health official said. (Jan. 19)

AP Domestic

Big Hammer Wines has about 20% less inventory than normal these days, forcing the restaurants, retailers and online customers who normally patronize the wine seller to choose alternative brands or find another supplier.

When frustrated restaurants complain, “I keep saying, ‘We don’t have the product, we don’t have the product, we don’t have the product,” says Greg Martelloto, president of the San Diego-based company. 

Some of Big Hammer’s customers pick a different brand of wine, but others bolt. “If you don’t have what they’re looking for,” Martelloto says, “they go elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, buyers hunting for a Ford Bronco, Lincoln Corsair or Jeep Compass, among many other vehicles, might need to forgo their preferred color or option package, unless they can tolerate a monthslong wait.

And popular electronics, such as smart speakers, may be delivered to shoppers’ doorsteps more slowly than usual, taking up to a week or more, up from a typical day or so.

COVID-related snags have delayed shipments of products and raw materials across the economy the past couple of months, pushing up wholesale costs and raising the likelihood of higher retail prices by midyear.

Behind the snarls: Some factories in the U.S. and abroad are shuttered while many others are running at partial capacity because of employee COVID cases or social distancing requirements. Ports, warehouses and trucking companies are similarly grappling with worker absences. And containers for overseas shipments are in short supply. Even the rollout of the COVID vaccine is playing a role, taking up shipping capacity and slowing other deliveries.

Such bottlenecks were prevalent when the pandemic began in early spring as factories shut down across the globe. Since then, the crunch had gradually eased. But recent COVID-19 spikes, combined with a resurgence in customer demand, have sparked the direst shortages and delays yet.

“Not only have the last two months seen supply shortages develop at a pace not previously seen… but prices have also risen due to the imbalance of supply and demand,” says Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, a data provider.

To be sure, demand for services has dropped as spikes in coronavirus cases led many states to reinstate curbs on restaurants and other businesses. In December, retail sales fell for the third straight month and restaurants shed nearly 500,000 jobs. But Americans continue to snap up electronics and other home-based goods and their employers are still buying equipment to bolster their…



Read MoreShoppers face shortages, higher prices amid pandemic

Shoppers face shortages, higher prices amid pandemic


CLOSE

Vaccine supply issues continue to plague California as the state tries to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination efforts. So far 3.2 million doses have been shipped to California and 1.5 million doses administered, the state’s top health official said. (Jan. 19)

AP Domestic

Big Hammer Wines has about 20% less inventory than normal these days, forcing the restaurants, retailers and online customers who normally patronize the wine seller to choose alternative brands or find another supplier.

When frustrated restaurants complain, “I keep saying, ‘We don’t have the product, we don’t have the product, we don’t have the product,” says Greg Martelloto, president of the San Diego-based company. 

Some of Big Hammer’s customers pick a different brand of wine, but others bolt. “If you don’t have what they’re looking for,” Martelloto says, “they go elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, buyers hunting for a Ford Bronco, Lincoln Corsair or Jeep Compass, among many other vehicles, might need to forgo their preferred color or option package, unless they can tolerate a monthslong wait.

And popular electronics, such as smart speakers, may be delivered to shoppers’ doorsteps more slowly than usual, taking up to a week or more, up from a typical day or so.

COVID-related snags have delayed shipments of products and raw materials across the economy the past couple of months, pushing up wholesale costs and raising the likelihood of higher retail prices by midyear.

Behind the snarls: Some factories in the U.S. and abroad are shuttered while many others are running at partial capacity because of employee COVID cases or social distancing requirements. Ports, warehouses and trucking companies are similarly grappling with worker absences. And containers for overseas shipments are in short supply. Even the rollout of the COVID vaccine is playing a role, taking up shipping capacity and slowing other deliveries.

Such bottlenecks were prevalent when the pandemic began in early spring as factories shut down across the globe. Since then, the crunch had gradually eased. But recent COVID-19 spikes, combined with a resurgence in customer demand, have sparked the direst shortages and delays yet.

“Not only have the last two months seen supply shortages develop at a pace not previously seen… but prices have also risen due to the imbalance of supply and demand,” says Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, a data provider.

To be sure, demand for services has dropped as spikes in coronavirus cases led many states to reinstate curbs on restaurants and other businesses. In December, retail sales fell for the third straight month and restaurants shed nearly 500,000 jobs. But Americans continue to snap up electronics and other home-based goods and their employers are still buying equipment to bolster their…



Read MoreShoppers face shortages, higher prices amid pandemic