Cost of family Christmas to soar as delays and shortages push up price of toys

The price of toys is set to skyrocket amid a global shortage of shipping containers compounded by a shortage of lorry drivers in the UK

Celine Wadhera
Sunday 29 August 2021 01:57
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<p>the price of toys is set to rise in the lead up to Christmas, as the cost of delays and shortages will hit shoppers’ pockets</p>

the price of toys is set to rise in the lead up to Christmas, as the cost of delays and shortages will hit shoppers’ pockets

Family Christmas is likely to cost significantly more this year, as the costs related to shipping toys are set to skyrocket amid delays and shortages in all parts of the transportation process.

Joel Berkowitz, a director of the London Toy Company, told PA News that families are likely to face steeper prices for presents this Christmas as businesses need to factor shipping expenses – which have risen up to eight times their normal rate – into consumer prices.

“Toys this Christmas are going to be more expensive, and that’s if they’re even in stock,” Mr Berkowitz said.

“We are massively affected by the shortages. We have clients wanting to place orders now and we just can’t deliver it.

“One of our customers is Amazon and they placed a massive order this morning but we can’t fulfil it, so it’s killing our business. It’s a complete mess.”

The issues begin at ports in manufacturing countries, like China, with an extremely limited supply of empty shipping containers, an effect that those in the toy industry say was caused by a global shutdown on trade during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The current wait for a shipping container is approximately three weeks, and once they become available, the cost of shipping has increased dramatically, they say.

“In any given year, we bring in about 30 containers which previously would’ve cost around £30,000,” Mr Berkowitz said. “This year it’s going to cost us £150,000, possibly more.”

“Then even when they get here, we’re quoted a three-week delay to get a truck to take it from the port to our warehouse. It’s a whole chain reaction affecting every part of the shipping process. And it’s only going to get worse.”

He said these processes would cause the price consumers pay for toys to increase, pointing to a electric underground train set that is set to go on sale in the London Transport Museum later this year. He said the toy would now likely cost around £50 rather than the originally planned £35 to £40.

Mr Berkowitz called on the UK government to assist by having “serious talks” about the shipping process and the companies that run it, which he says are being referred to as “cartels”.

He added that the government should allow port workers and HGV drivers from Europe to work freely in the UK.

Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, the founder and owner of UK-based WOW Toys, echoed Mr Berkowitz’s sentiments. He said: “We’ve been doing this for 25 years and the current situation is totally unprecedented and will mean inflation of retail prices for toys this Christmas and beyond.

He said that while the situation with HGV drivers was a UK issue, everything else was a global issue. The biggest problem is shipping lanes, which he said “are run by a handful of companies such as Cosco and Maersk, who have put of their prices massively because they have complete free reign”.

“Whereas the cost of a container for us was around $2,300, now it’s $20,000. And the result is going to be a massive inflationary problem around the world.

“I can’t understand why governments, including the UK’s, aren’t bringing pressure on them,” Mr Ednan-Laperouse added.

The news of rising toy prices comes as major supermarket chains have warned that Christmas could be “cancelled” due to shortages in holiday food, caused by a shortage of lorry drivers.

Iceland managing director Richard Walker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that his grocery stores were already suffering shortages of food and drink products because of an ongoing lack of lorry drivers, which could continue in the lead up to Christmas, leaving stocks short across the country.

While Mr Walker conceded that Brexit was culpable in the shortages, he said: “It is a self-inflicted wound. I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitable consequence of Brexit.

“This is caused by the government’s failure to appreciate the importance of HGV drivers and the work they do for us.

“These HGV drivers have kept the show on the road for 18 months during the pandemic and it is criminal that we are not viewing them as skilled workers.”

Mr Walker has called on the government to add HGV lorry drivers to the essential and skilled workers list, to make it easier for these workers from abroad to obtain UK visas.

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