panic buy. now!

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The good news is that this isn’t going to be an overtly political post. And it’s short. The bad news is that I drew little comfort from Rishi and Bojo’s recent reassurances that there would be a goodly amount of Christmas presents available for everyone to buy. But whatever the situation proves to be, it isn’t all their fault.

If you’re in purchasing or supply-chain management, December’s traditional splurge is always going to be a trying time and is oft graphically described as ‘pushing the pig through the python’. However, we’ve already seen a run on petrol, there are gaping holes on supermarket shelves and well-publicised shortages of everything from toys to timber and microchips to milkshakes. And it ain’t just here, it’s worldwide: In California, queues of over fifty cargo ships are commonplace; Felixstowe, our largest container port is now turning-away ship due to lack of capacity; China has partly closed the world’s busiest container port, Ningbo Zhoushan, after only a single case of Covid was detected.

Global supply chains, operating on a just-in-time basis, which have run smoothly for decades have suddenly been thrown out of sync by a number of both connected and unrelated issues: an international dearth of semiconductors; an energy-supply crisis; disruptions to transport networks; and labour shortages. Tellingly, it appears these global mechanisms appear to have yet fully recovered from the six-day blockage within the Suez Canal earlier this year and the cost of transporting one forty-foot container from Asia to the UK now costs c.£11,000 – ten times higher than before the pandemic! Furthermore, with the rise in economic isolation (Brexit/US-China-Russia trade issues) it ain’t going to be any easier in the short/medium term and supply-chain specialists Moody’s warn that it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

Which brings us back to this year’s fast-approaching festive frivolities. Casting my mind back to last year’s abortive season, having to cancel one Christmas may be regarded as careless, but to cancel two…