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National Tree CEO: Don’t wait till Black Friday to shop for holidays

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National Tree Co. tells American Shipper it is warning customers not to sit on their wallets until Black Friday because the items they are coveting might already be sold out.

“Our normal holiday peak buying days are Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but honestly this year, I don’t know if we will have inventory by then,” cautioned National Tree CEO Chris Butler.

One of the reasons behind Butler’s inventory warning is the company is importing 10% less this year because of lack of available containers as well as an expected increased consumer demand for seasonal decor. The items chosen to be left behind in China were financially based: the lower-priced items.

“Our goal last year was to get containers on the water at all costs,” he explained. “We started shipping our products in early 2020. Normally June is our peak month for logistics. This year, though, we have been in a constant daily grind.”

The cost of the daily grind has gone up tenfold for the company, now paying more than $20,000 per container. To cover the historic increase in costs, prices for its holiday products have gone up 25%.

“While we have contracts, not all are being filled so we are fighting the spot market,” said Butler. “From a budgeting perspective for 2022, we continue to expect high spot rates. I hope prices normalize, but I doubt it will ever get back to pre-pandemic levels.”

In a time when volume records are shattered weekly, the term “peak season” has become a farce. 

SONAR: Outbound ocean TEU volume index China to the U.S. 

The crush of containers and anchor times increasing on the West Coast are a harsh reality facing all importers like National Tree. Using the ports of Los Angeles, Norfolk and NY/NJ, Butler said National Tree is looking at upward of four extra weeks added to its logistics calendar because of the congestion. That unfortunately does not include the delivery of goods to customers or retailers.

“We do tens of thousands of orders per day and we are afraid with the lack of drivers this holiday, UPS and FedEx are going to get slammed,” said Butler. “Customers have to realize the holiday shopping season has already started. You need to plan ahead in order to ensure your product will arrive on time.”


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Lori Ann LaRocco

Lori Ann LaRocco is senior editor of guests for CNBC business news. She coordinates high profile interviews and special multi-million dollar on-location productions for all shows on the network. Her specialty is in politics, working with titans of industry. LaRocco is the author of: “Trade War: Containers Don’t Lie, Navigating the Bluster” (Marine Money Inc., 2019) “Dynasties of the Sea: The Untold Stories of the Postwar Shipping Pioneers” (Marine Money Inc., 2018), “Opportunity Knocking” (Agate Publishing, 2014), “Dynasties of the Sea: The Ships and Entrepreneurs Who Ushered in the Era of Free Trade” (Marine Money, 2012), and “Thriving in the New Economy: Lessons from Today’s Top Business Minds” (Wiley, 2010).