6 Oct 2021

Three months before Christmas, companies plan early for freight delays, higher costs

10:55 am on 6 October 2021

Businesses already have Christmas front of mind, hoping Covid-19 won't be a grinch again.

Ports of Auckland

File photo of Containers at Ports of Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kymberlee Fernandes

Getting stock into the country last holiday season was a stressful time for many, largely because of how Covid-19 impacted global shipping.

There were also problems at New Zealand's largest port, the Ports of Auckland.

Businesses like champagne importer Three French Vines, which ran out of some stock last summer, want to make sure they can combat ongoing global shipping delays.

Director Andrew Lyndsay said they had tried hard to plan ahead for the holiday season, but he ultimately believed he would experience shortages again.

Lyndsay said they ordered stock early, making estimates based on sales over the last few Christmas and New Year periods, but whether it matched this year's demand was a complete guessing game.

He did not see any risk if they ordered too much champagne because they can sell an aged wine.

"We sell champagne that was bottled, for example, in 1975 and it's as beautiful today as it was then."

On the other hand, New Zealand Toy Distributors Association president Geoff Lyons felt like shipping at the moment was a nightmare.

He said there was massive demand for toys but the price of shipping had skyrocketed.

The cost of freight from China had gone up "as much as four-fold from last year", he said.

"So a container that was costing me $4000 last year, the latest one I've had is just over $17,000."

Lyons said his toy distribution company Haka New Zealand tried to absorb some costs but some would be relayed to the customer.

He said the toy sector started preparing for Christmas in about April, which was normal.

Despite shipping delays being weeks-long, he was confident all his Christmas stock will be in the country by 25 December.

"Whether we can physically get all of that stock in the stores pre-Christmas is going to be the tester," he said.

To try combat delays, Unity Books had expanded storage space and was getting stock for months ahead - through into February - instead of weeks.

Adrian Hardingham, who manages the Wellington store, said was already contacting customers as well.

"We're starting to send messages to our customers about thinking about their Christmas presents now, in October, rather than in late November."

He had even brought on extra summer staff early to help process the stock already coming in.

Last year in New Zealand, the impacts on global shipping by Covid-19 were sitting on top of challenges relating to staffing and operations at Ports of Auckland.

But the Ports said it was in a much better position now. Delays were global and not in getting freight through Auckland's port.

However, Ports of Auckland said it was expecting a busy holiday season and was not being complacent because it was wary of surprises Covid-19 could spring.

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