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shipping crisis Parents told to shop for toys now or face nightmare before Christmas

Toy shop owners are saying they anticipate demand will well outstrip supply.

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Get in early: Ciarán Fitzpatrick of Banba Toymaster on Mary Street in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Get in early: Ciarán Fitzpatrick of Banba Toymaster on Mary Street in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Get in early: Ciarán Fitzpatrick of Banba Toymaster on Mary Street in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Customers are being advised to “shop early for Christmas” due to shipping delays caused by Covid-19, Brexit chaos and stratospheric freight container costs.

Shipping container costs from China – one of the leading global toy markets – have rocketed in recent months.

The containers were historically priced about €1,100. But the Freight Transport Association of Ireland (FTA) stated they are now around €30,000 each.

Toy shop owners are saying they anticipate demand will well outstrip supply.

Ciarán Fitzpatrick, owner of Banba Toymaster, in north Dublin city, said: “We’re going to miss some new (toy) lines because the shipping time from China to the UK, where most of our goods come through, is facing huge delays. It’s gone crazy.

“Most shopkeepers have placed orders early but if I look for new orders in November the chances are I won’t get them.

“The problem is a toy could become a major must-have item out of the blue, after it’s featured on the RTÉ Late Late Toy Show in late November, but there might be little chance of getting it.”

Inevitably as shipping container prices rise, the cost is likely to be passed onto the consumer.

“Prices of toys will go up,” Mr Fitzpatrick said. “Invariably, everything will go up.

“Suppliers are trying to hold the prices but with the price of shipping containers having gone up so much, shops will have to charge more.

“It’s the last thing we want to do. Hopefully we can hold off for a while.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said his most popular toy would be Lego but he was expecting a number of Playmobil toys, including the Starship Enterprise, retailing at €460.40 in some online stores, to be a hit this Christmas.

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“Hopefully parents will heed the advice out there and buy the important toys early,” he said.

Online sales at Banbatoys.ie are already starting to take off for Christmas.

And the store is allowing customers to pay in installments, with gifts being held if 25pc is paid upfront.

It seems that it is not just toys that area affected, yesterday Marks & Spencer announced to customers it will “regrettably” be unable to offer customers in Ireland the Christmas food to order this festive season.

An M&S spokesperson said: “Brexit has already led to complexity and delay in shipping products to Ireland and there is too much risk that customers will be let down if we attempt to fulfill CFTO orders and they are delayed or not fulfilled. Customers will still be able to buy everything they need for Christmas in our M&S food halls.”

Aidan Flynn, general manager of the FTA Ireland, said: “The cost of shipping containers has risen uncontrollably because of a shortage of available ships and shipping containers.

“A shipping container could cost up to €30,000. The price has increased maybe 20 times in eight months.”

However, while the rates had led to “massive profits” for shipping container companies, “this hasn’t been passed down to the consumer,” Mr Flynn said.

“And I’d say the prices are increasing daily,” he added.

“We’re seeing implications in the supply chain from delays and the choice of what the consumer has, will now become more expensive.”

Mr Flynn said Covid-19, Brexit, a shortage of truck drivers and the Suez canal crisis in March, when a ship became stuck in the waterway, had created a “perfect storm” in the shipping supply chain.

“In March the Suez Canal ship incident caused chaos and from then prices have been going up,” he said.

“That ship didn’t offload until after five months – causing delays within the system.

“Our expectations, as consumers, is that you get what you want, when you want but products you’re used to getting come from all over the world.

“The pandemic disrupted the supply chain and when disrupted, it takes time to catch up.

“The Suez canal situation is still affecting us today.

“And Ireland is reliant on EU and British connectivity to deliver anything from furniture to garden equipment or Christmas toys.”

Mr Flynn also pointed to a skills shortage for commercial truck drivers, another reason the supply chain is slowing.

“The skills shortage is really important,” Mr Flynn said.

The (FTA) is trying to address this with a State-funded apprenticeship, which will be launched in January 2022.

“We’re all beginning to see how important drivers are to deliver the clothes on our backs and the food we eat,” he said.

Smyths Toys has already notified its customers to “shop early for Christmas” due to the global crisis.

Conor Brady, co-owner of Cogs The Brain shop in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, Dublin, and Cogsthebrainshop.ie, is witnessing a delay in receiving toy kitchen deliveries at the store.

“Ultimately they come from China, it’s the way the industry is structured,” Mr Brady said.

“We’ve seen incredible delays in terms of delivery. Suppliers have been saying they won’t have things for Christmas… Some of our summer toys are only arriving now. “It’s frustrating but we have a good range in store because we bought very early. But we anticipate we’ll miss some board games and educational games. We’ve been putting a lot of work into finding alternatives.”

Mr Brady said the store had “been taking a hit on the margin” due to the supply crisis.

“Unfortunately, it will be unavoidable. We have to put prices up but we’re being competitive in costs,” he said.

Sharon Keilthy, CEO of Jiminy.ie, an eco toys website based in Dublin, feels her store will be mostly “insulated” from the crisis, as she doesn’t buy most of her stock from China.

“We’re markedly different to the average toy shop,” said Ms Keilthy, from Raheny.

“Our strategy is to source European-made, plastic-free toys, which means we’ve been insulated. However, our teddies, made from recycled plastic or organic cotton, are the only things brought from China. And our suppliers are telling us we should have ordered in August.

“However, our toy store is 93pc free of plastic, so we’re protected. Perhaps after crises like this, Ireland will start to see the incentives to localise manufacturing.”

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