Biden administration says stores will be fully stocked for the holidays

President Biden told executives of some of the nation’s largest retailers on Monday that his administration is committed to partnering with them to unravel supply chains and ensure American consumers can find whatever they want. this holiday season, as an increase in shopping tests an already tense world. delivery system.

Mr Biden had planned to speak following his supply chain meeting with senior executives from large grocery stores, like Food Lion and Kroger, and a range of retailers, like Best Buy and Etsy. But administration officials abruptly canceled his remarks at the White House less than half an hour before Mr Biden planned to speak, saying the president wanted to spend more time chatting with leaders. His remarks were postponed until Wednesday.

The meeting was part of a larger effort by the president to show he is doing all he can to fight inflation and ensure a more normal holiday shopping season as Covid-19 continues to persist. Mr Biden has made an effort to decongest ports, address trucker shortages and take other steps to ease the pressure created by consumers looking to buy sofas, cars and electronics instead of eating out. or go to theme parks.

But the White House has limited scope to affect a supply chain controlled by private companies and shaped by larger forces, like the pandemic and consumer demand.

Still, senior officials tried to reassure a nervous public on Monday that consumers would be able to buy what they want.

“There are going to be toys on your shelves,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters after noting that Black Friday sales had increased by nearly a third this year in the world. preliminary estimates. “There is going to be food in your grocery stores. “

Shipping costs have started to retreat slightly from stratospheric highs as West Coast ports work to reduce congestion. Officials on Monday announced new measures to incentivize container pickup at night and on weekends at ports, and they highlighted data showing continued decline in backlogs of unloaded containers.

But many business experts say the supply chain crisis is far from over. The extraordinarily high demand in the United States for products made in Asian factories, combined with a shortage of truckers and warehouse workers, means that supply chain problems are likely to last for a long time.

Phil Levy, chief economist at Flexport, a freight forwarder, said the organization’s data “doesn’t show that things are getting much better. Not yet.”

He said the dramatic increase in demand for goods in the United States has created a backlog of orders that will take months to fill. The congestion could even persist until next year, he said, unless an early end to the pandemic or a stock market crash suddenly encourages Americans to cut spending.

As businesses of all sizes continue to face shipping delays and high transportation costs, most large retailers have said they expect their shelves to be fully stocked during the holidays. Companies have taken extraordinary steps to secure goods in time for the holidays, including chartering their own ships and shipping products by air rather than by sea.

In a letter sent to Mr Biden on Monday, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents major retailers like Best Buy, CVS, Food Lion and Walmart, urged the administration to “facilitate a few more short-term steps” to maintain the moving goods. by ports, such as improving restrictive appointment systems for truckers and requiring ports and ocean carriers to accept return of empty containers, as well as longer term investments in port infrastructure .

Judah Levine, head of research at Freightos, an online freight marketplace, said the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach had started to show signs of easing congestion and had used “sweeper” vessels. To help reposition empty containers around the port.

Freight prices from Asia to the United States have also fallen in recent weeks, according to Freightos, but those prices are still almost four times what they were at the same time last year.

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