Lack of shipping containers changes what retailers place on shelves 

The shipping container has become a coveted and expensive lifeline for retailers and manufacturers, and they’re in such short supply that companies are having to rethink how they stock shelves, placing a premium on smaller, more compact merchandise: squishy toys, headphones and slippers instead of, say, play kitchens, televisions and hiking boots, The Washington Post reports. 

To maximize every cubic inch of these boxes, retailers and freight companies must master a math exercise, whether that’s two pickup trucks, 500 artificial Christmas trees or 80,000 Pop It fidget toys.

“Call it the Jenga supply chain,” says Suketu Gandhi, global leader for digital supply chain at the consulting firm Kearney. “Without shipping containers, the whole thing tumbles.”

The container shortage, economists say, is a byproduct of the pandemic, because virus-related shutdowns disrupted how goods are moved globally. 

Nearly 26 million 20-foot containers’ worth of goods are expected to arrive in the U.S. this year, up 18% from a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation’s Global Port Tracker. Meanwhile, the scarcity of workers to load and unload at ports and warehouses, as well as truck drivers to transport them, has stranded an estimated 3 million containers around the world, according to Niels Larsen, president of Air & Sea North America at DSV, a global transport and logistics firm. Read the full story.