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Halloween is haunted by shortages, but the holidays don’t have to be

Halloween is haunted by shortages, but the holidays don’t have to be

After the lockdowns and uncertainty of 2020, Halloween is back in all its spooktacular glory this year with 65% of Americans intending to celebrate the holiday. That means more people looking to hand out candy (66%), decorate their home or yard (52%), dress up in costumes (46%) and carve a pumpkin (44%). But as you prepare for the big day this year, you may have noticed something — a lot of the items needed for your ghoulish celebrations have been in short supply.

Port congestion, driver shortages, limited warehouse space and bottlenecks in the network have reaped supply chain shortages on everything from costumes and decorations, to candy and pumpkins, leaving many battling empty shelves and canceled orders ahead of their celebrations. And with the holiday shopping season just around the corner, families already well aware of the impact that shortages can have on their lives are feeling even more pressure to get out early to avoid barren shelves and disappointment when Christmas comes around. 

So what lessons can we learn from this Halloween’s supply chain scare, and how can we help to avoid a nightmare before Christmas situation? Below we’ll take a look at some of the shortages that were felt this Halloween, and outline some ways to overcome them in time for the holiday shopping season.

The great pumpkin (shortage)

Driver shortage causing challenges in produce and other time sensitive deliveries 

Nothing says “Fall has arrived!” like pumpkin spice everything and whipped cream topped pumpkin pie, but of course where pumpkins really shine is on Halloween. Today, pumpkin carving remains synonymous with Halloween, with the majority of the 1.5 billion pounds of fresh pumpkin varieties grown in the United States each year sold specifically for the holiday. Of course, growing and distributing all those pumpkins can be a challenge in the best of conditions, and 2021 has not been kind to America’s pumpkin farmers.

From invasive fungus and extreme weather to supply chain issues, pumpkin growers across the country have dealt with a long list of challenges leading up to Halloween this year, making for higher prices and lower stock at many locations. However, one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced this year is the same challenge felt across many sectors, and that’s the lack of available drivers to haul their shipments. 

How to find reliable drivers quickly to avoid delays?

Many shippers tend to rely on a small pool of trusted carriers in order to get their goods from A to B, and in normal times this strategy has served them well. Today, however, is a different story, and companies that limit themselves to a small pool of carrier options face rising costs, increased risk, and limited flexibility. 

Shipwell delivers:

  • Access to over 2 million ELD-connected units across all modes
  • Automated optimization capabilities to uncover opportunities for consolidation, route improvements, carrier selection and more
  • Instant rating/quoting, booking, dispatching and creation of bills of lading for LTL shipments across national, super-regional, regional, and local LTL carriers

Halloween stores haunted by empty shelves

Port congestion creating a bottleneck in the supply chain for high demand items

After last year’s toned-down Halloween celebrations, shoppers are set to spend record amounts to make their Halloweekend one to remember, with costumes ranking as the top area to put their money and decorations coming in right behind. Per person spending is up $10 over 2020, dropping an average of ​​$102.74 on their Halloween celebrations, bringing total spending for this season to a record $10 billion. Of course, if you’ve been out looking for costumes and decorations, you may have noticed that the shelves are a little more barren this year.

For those looking to show off their Halloween spirit with a festive costume and spooky decorations, the challenge of finding supplies this year isn’t the result of unprepared retailers. There is no shortage — not exactly. The products were ordered, packed up and shipped, and for the most part they’re already here. They’re just stuck on ships languishing in the nation’s ports.

How to speed up port operations to get products out of the port faster?

The driver shortage isn’t just a long-haul problem. It’s a drayage problem. Even with the recent national pledge to keep ports operating 24/7 to get ships unloaded faster and relieve the bottleneck, finding enough drivers to get those containers to distribution centers, warehouses and trainyards is a real challenge. 

Shipwell delivers:

  • Instant drayage bid requests and bookings with our trusted network of carriers
  • Centralized information and workflows with a platform that connects shippers, brokers and carriers
  • ELD, EDI and app-based tracking from port to terminal, plus ocean and container visibility, enabling you to identify shipment disruptions before they occur
  • Automatic status updates for every container shipment

Ransomware sinks its teeth into the candy supply

Increased cyber attacks on the supply chain highlight the need for greater security

Christmas has candy canes. Valentine’s day has chocolate. Easter has… also chocolate (but in egg form). But no other holiday holds candy in such a place of importance as Halloween. Nearly one third of all Halloween spending goes into the treats that families give away to trick-or-treaters on October 31st, with spending estimated to hit $3 billion this year. Of course, just as with costumes and decorations, there seems to be fewer options available at supermarkets across the country this year. 

On top of the standard issues with port congestion and a lack of drivers that everyone is contending with right now, candy makers have found themselves targeted by modern malware attacks — a threat that has brought supply chains to a standstill several times already over the past year. Earlier in October the country’s top manufacturer of Halloween’s most controversial treat was brought down by just such an attack. Candy corn maker, Ferrara (who also manufactures Halloween essentials like Nerds, Sweet Tarts and others) was knocked out on October 9th by hackers through a ransomware attack. In this case the company was able to resume operations in short order, but with such attacks on supply chains having tripled between 2019 and 2020, one should be prepared for more of these types of disruptions in the future. 

How to improve security to prevent future attacks?

Ransomware attacks can have broad consequences from shutting down network access or operations, damaging your reputation with customers and employees, and inviting further attacks as hackers start to view your operations as vulnerable. Just this year, attacks like those waged against Colonial Pipeline, Kaseya and JBS show the need for improved security. 

Shipwell delivers:

  • A world-class combination of powerful data encryption methods and practices to ensure the highest level of security
  • Tools that allow you to set up a hierarchy of access privileges and select certain information that you want to be restricted
  • A cloud-based system that runs across multiple, physically-secured data centers with multiple load balancers and auto-scaling on all applications and services
  • Backup processes to ensure that your data is always secure and if there is an issue, it can be recovered automatically

The supply chain has had its share of scares this year, and if Halloween is any indication, delays and shortages are something we’re going to be contending with through the rest of the holiday shopping season as well. If you’re looking for the technology and support to avoid the looming specter of barren shelves and disappointed customers in the lead-up to Christmas, Shipwell has the solutions to keep your supply chain on track this holiday season.

Click here to learn more about how we can help you to get through the chaos of 2021’s peak shipping season, or schedule a demo today.