Chicago Anglers’ Plight Shows Exactly How Bad Supply Chain Issues Are Ahead of Holiday Season

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/picture alliance via Getty Images)

One Chicago angling company’s struggles amid the nation’s supply chain woes show how tough things are ahead of the holiday season.

Catch Co. sunk some cash into an advent calendar called “12 Days of Fishmas” set for 2,650 Walmart stores this season. The company had to figure out the usual factors like selling it for the holidays and getting the product at the right time.

But this year, the supply chain is a mess.

The pandemic has caused a massive traffic crunch in sea shipping lanes, ports, and overall transit.

The company told The New York Times that many of its calendars were stuck in a 40-foot steel box at the Port of Long Beach in California, blocked by other boxes. Truckers could not get to the Catch Co.-box.

“There’s delays in every single piece of the supply chain,” Catch Co. executive Tim MacGuidwin told The New York Times. “You’re very much not in control.”

Overall Supply Chain Mess

Add the port mess to other factors like overall worker shortages, pandemic shutdowns, strong consumer demand, and American companies are trying to solve their supply chain issues.

Some American shoppers are getting worried about getting presents this year. The federal government has worked to alleviate issues, but larger, global economic forces could be at work. With some California ports now operating on a 24-hour schedule starting in early October, there’s some hope.

For Catch Co., the company has tried to work through these supply chain issues for months.

First, pandemic-related factory shutdowns in China and other places led to a graphite shortage, a key ingredient in fishing pole making. Next, shipping containers got scarce. Then, with Americans at home, the need for more home-related products surged.  

Shipping rates skyrocketed. Walmart and Target tried to get stuff by renting their own ships while adding thousands for warehouse and truck driving work. Then Apple released a new iPhone. Even more open shipping containers in the supply chain disappeared.

Catch Co. and its products (poles, lures, etc.) became high-demand items. When it tried to ship by air, those shipping prices were five to six times more than sea shipping.

Calendar A Supply Chain Survivor?

The time crunch was on for the company. The $24.98 product would be a big deal for sales (like 15 percent of holiday sales), introducing other products to consumers. The problem was it needed to be in stories well before 2021 was over.  

Companies tried to plan for delays. For example, calendar production started in April. The calendars went to the Qingdao port in early July, but the container shortage kept them at the port for a month.

Then, after a three-week supply chain voyage to Southern California, the shipping vessel had to wait to dock. After waiting two weeks, the container made it to the Port of Long Beach shipping graveyard.

But will the calendars get from there to stuffed warehouses and then nationwide Walmarts before Christmas? Now, Catch Co. sent trucks to get the product to the company’s Kansas City distribution center before going to Walmart.

The product will get to stores by Nov. 17, but what usually took two months in the supply chain now turned into more than a four-month trip.

Is there hope for next year’s calendar? Catch Co. officials have hope for next year, but figure next year’s calendar could have 2023 on the top of them.