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Toys With Roots co-founder, Thabo Motsabi says its secured supply for its flagship Rainbow Kids dolls but had trouble sourcing other products. (supplied)
  • Wholesalers say they struggled to secure toys for the festive season.
  • Those who have secured supply say they had to order stock as early as March.
  • The Covid-19 crisis' impact on the global supply chain has been blamed for delays.
  • Aside from manufacturing stoppages, a shortage of ships and and containers has also led to delays.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Some South African children could be in for a tear-filled festive season as the constraints in the global supply chain could see them not get the toys they so dearly want for Christmas.

The Covid-19 crisis has seen players in the local toy industry having to deal with exceptionally long lead times and skyrocketing shipping costs ahead of the festive season.

This means that despite their best efforts, getting stock ahead of Christmas has been extraordinarily difficult.

Supply chains are taking strain because the world economy is having to deal with major material shortages, as a result of the Covid-19 enforced shutdowns around the world.

Big shortages

The stress on the supply chain has been so great, manufacturers were struggling to get even the most basic of commodities.

“People could not get paper to manufacture the boxes to put the toys in,” says Jeffrey Stein Sales, sales and marketing director, Ryan McNally. Jeffrey Stein Sales is a leading toy and hobby wholesaler, that imports international toy brands like licensed play vehicles from Bruder, toy figure manufacturer, Schleich and remote-control car maker Maisto.

The shortages could also be seen in electronics, with some chip makers only able to supply chips five months after being ordered, says McNally. This is a considerable wait, as the normal lead time is 40 days.

The nature of work in China has also added to the delays. As much of its manufacturing is driven by migrant labour, many workers decided not to return to work because of the pandemic, resulting in further stoppages.

McNally says businesses that did not order their Christmas stock as early as March or April would struggle to get stock for the period. “If you did not do that, you would be in trouble right now.”

Not just shortages

In South Africa, the strain on the supply chain is more acute as a result of hold ups at the Port of Durban, the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and the several lockdowns over the past year, says Helena Coertzen, operations manager at Ideal Cycle & Toy Wholesalers.

Coertzen says even as the supply chain recovers, the Covid pandemic still looms over it, as issues like Covid-19 infections aboard ships at sea means they must go into isolation before docking.

Though production issues are a problem, Coertzen says the biggest one is shipping. The shortage of containers and ships means that even if there is enough product, getting them to customers around the world has led to further delays.

 “A lot of factories have had to stop production because they can’t get ships,” Coertzen notes.

The difficulty around shipping can be seen in shipping lead-times rising from 90 days to 180 days.

Aside from shipping delays, Coertzen says the industry also had to deal with rocketing costs. Shipping prices have gone from $1,300 for a 12-metre container pre-pandemic to its current price of $10,000 to $12,000 a container.

Caledon Wholesalers co-owner, Steven Bloom, says he has also seen a sharp rise in shipping cost. “Freight cost has risen by 500%, but there has been a three-month delay.”

No easy work around

The wholesalers are not the only one’s suffering. Local toy-maker, Toys With Roots has managed to get dolls heads from its suppliers in China for its flagship Rainbow Kids dolls but has trouble sourcing other products says co-founder, Thabo Motsabi.

Toys With Roots has to sources its dolls heads from China, as SA last had the capacity to mold these types of plastic dolls in the 1990s.

Motsabi says there are no easy solutions to the supply chain issues. Toys With Roots can order more stock to offset the supply issue. Doing this, however, puts pressure on its cash management, as it means the money it planned to use elsewhere in the business now has to be used to secure stock.

One of the ways Toys With Roots is looking to cope with the constraints in the supply chain is to try and source products like “plush toys” locally. It's also looking at ways to build longer lead times for some products into its business model.

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