Toy retailers are running out of some of this year’s most popular Christmas gifts as chaos at Britain’s ports adds to a supply shortage.
Products close to selling out include Lego sets, Barbie dolls and ‘Baby Yoda’ soft toys – one of 2020’s most sought-after presents.
Parents are rushing to find alternatives and are being told they may not be able to get their hands on the gift they want for their children.
Experts warned that stores had been hit by a perfect storm of demand and supply problems after shoppers spent an estimated £1.7 billion on packed high streets yesterday.
White goods, furniture, homeware and building supplies are also being delayed by the congestion in goods coming into Britain. Pictured: Lorries queue for miles on the A20 near Dover
The surge in last-minute shopping has combined with delays to goods arriving at Felixstowe on the Suffolk coast to severely hit stocks in stores, some of which cannot get hold of toys fast enough. Covid safety restrictions have also hit the supply chains used by retailers and other industries.
White goods, furniture, homeware and building supplies are also being delayed by the congestion in goods coming into Britain, while carmaker Honda closed its Swindon plant due to difficulty in getting parts.
The chaos at Felixstowe, also hampered by Brexit stockpiling and virus medical supplies, is now threatening to cause logjams at other ports as shipping containers are rerouted. Gary Grant, owner of The Entertainer, the country’s biggest toy retailer, told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘The toy trade will not run out of toys – the shelves will not be empty at 5 o’clock on Christmas Eve, no chance.
Products close to selling out include Lego sets, Barbie dolls (pictured) and ‘Baby Yoda’ soft toys – one of 2020’s most sought-after presents.
‘But there are always certain things that the whole world has wanted to buy – Rubik’s cubes, Cabbage Patch dolls, Tracy Island or Teletubbies. This year it’s Mattel’s £25 Baby Yoda soft toy – they are like gold dust. Another range that has sold phenomenally well this year is Barbie. We’ve got around half the range in stock and we’re waiting for more to come in. But it’s not coming in as fast as we are selling it.’
Baby Yoda toys have risen in popularity this year thanks to the success of Star Wars spin-off TV series The Mandalorian.
Mr Grant, whose firm operates more than 170 shops across the UK, added: ‘We will not be completely sold out of Barbies on Christmas Eve but we’ve only half the range so you might not get the one you want. That’s down to demand but it’s also the fact that shipments of new stock are being delayed.’
Baby Yoda toys (pictured) have risen in popularity this year thanks to the success of Star Wars spin-off TV series The Mandalorian
He said other ranges, such as board games, crafts, jigsaws and puzzles – which kept children entertained during lockdown – are also now in short supply.
Other sources said some Lego ranges are also selling out. The £150 Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon set is out of stock at most Argos stores and on Lego.com.
Stocks of Minecraft Lego sets are also dwindling on the company’s own website, including the £49.99 Pirate Ship Adventure and £19.99 Skull Arena. Last night the Barbie Career of the Year 2020 four-doll set was sold out from the majority of shops and only available on eBay UK from American suppliers.
High streets were packed yesterday with eager Christmas shoppers who were estimated to have splashed out £1.7 billion. An estimated £3 million a minute was spent over the nine hours of trading as delays in online deliveries and an anticipated move to tier 3 in some areas prompted some families to rush their festive shopping.
Around 80,000 shoppers were expected at Lakeside in Essex, 130,000 at Manchester’s Trafford Centre and 60,000 at London’s Brent Cross. There are growing concerns that issues at Felixstowe are clogging up other ports, with Southampton already affected.
Shipping containers tower over a pub in Felixstowe (pictured) as delays at the port continue
One senior retail source said: ‘We are all desperately trying to get our stuff through Southampton but the problems at Felixstowe have spread. It’s not just about getting containers into the country before Christmas. We need products flowing in January too and even they are being affected now.’
Last week, major cargo firms Maersk and MSC said they were swapping Felixstowe for Liverpool in order to ‘provide stability’ to transatlantic services. Business sources said issues have been compounded by delays at ports in China, where many products are made.
Even worse, some ships are not stopping at British ports at all. ‘It’s the perfect storm,’ one national haulier said. ‘All around the world everybody is short of containers because once you begin to have delays on this scale, this finely tuned system begins to back up.
‘Thousands of containers – tens of thousands – are in the wrong place and that is forcing up prices quite considerably.
‘Containers are sitting on the quayside in China waiting to get on a boat. On the other side of the journey, in the UK, it’s now taking a week or more to get things out instead of a couple of days. It’s a nightmare you don’t want after the year we’ve all had.’
Organisations representing the UK’s ports and logistics companies have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps calling for help.
The Entertainer said it is matching last year’s sales week on week, despite the restrictions in shops. However, sales will be down for the year as a whole after shops were forced to close during lockdowns.
Some other high street chains – already struggling due to Covid curbs – have gone bust or are teetering on the brink, including Topshop and Debenhams.
Mr Grant said: ‘The only thing that will finish the year off for retailers now, aside from another lockdown which would be disastrous, is a bad dump of snow. If that happened any time between now and Christmas it would stop people shopping and couriers delivering. We’re all praying for no snow.’
…AND DOVER DISRUPTION GOES ON AND ON
By Michael Powell
Thousands of lorries were stuck in gridlock near Dover for a fourth day yesterday as ports were overwhelmed by a perfect storm of Brexit stockpiling, Christmas toys and Covid medical supplies.
The logjam stretched back for ten miles along the A20.
There were also long queues of lorries on the M20 where highways officials tested out a new moveable central reservation to allow HGVs to queue on the 50-mile motorway while keeping non-port traffic flowing. The gridlock has been blamed on a deluge of ports traffic as companies stock up ahead of Brexit.
Thousands of lorries were stuck in gridlock near Dover for a fourth day yesterday as ports were overwhelmed by a perfect storm of Brexit stockpiling, Christmas toys and Covid medical supplies. Pictured: Lorries queue for miles on the A20 near Dover on Saturday
This has combined with the usual pre-Christmas build-up and the additional transport of medical supplies and PPE related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has placed Britain’s ports under huge strain, with some ships reportedly now bypassing the UK altogether and heading instead for Rotterdam. Felixstowe, which handles 40 per cent of UK container traffic, has been hardest hit, but problems are spreading to Southampton and London Gateway.
Companies including Apple, fashion chains Primark and River Island, sofa firm DFS and the folding-bicycle manufacturer Brompton have warned that their products now face lengthy delays and may not arrive for many weeks. Lorries were also queuing for ten miles in Calais on the French side of the Channel yesterday. French officials said there has been 50 per cent more heavy goods vehicles on the roads leading to the Channel crossing in the last three weeks.
‘Normally we have about 6,000 trucks, but now it is about 9,000,’ a port official told the Guardian.
A new moveable barrier system keeps non-freight traffic separate on the M20 in Kent (pictured)
According to Eurotunnel, delays around Dover are expected to continue for the next three weeks.
Its contingency plans are based on a No Deal Brexit scenario involving 7,000 lorries queuing in Kent. The four-day trial of the new M20 barrier will be used to change the layout of the motorway to allow cars to travel up the wrong side of the opposite carriageway and avoid getting caught up in the lorry queues around the Port of Dover or the Eurotunnel at Folkestone.
The barrier is part of Operation Brock, a series of measures that aims to keep the M20 open in both directions during busy periods after Britain leaves the EU on January 1.