A worker wearing a protective mask removes

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Delivery bottlenecks, which have led to rising freight costs, are a vacation headache for US retailers.

Cost co This week joined the long list of retailers on the alert about rising shipping prices and the associated supply chain problems. The warehouse clerk who a similar cautionary note in MayThe sportswear giant joined her Nike and economic pioneers FedEx and General mills when discussing similar concerns.

The cost of shipping containers overseas has increased in recent months. Getting a 40-foot container from Shanghai to New York cost about $ 2,000 a year and a half ago, just before Covid pandemic. It is now around $ 16,000, according to Bank of America.

In a conference call with analysts Thursday, Richard Galanti, Costco’s chief financial officer, called freight costs “permanent inflationary items” and said these increases are being combined with things that are “somewhat permanent” to add to the pressure. This includes not only freight, but also higher labor costs, increasing transport and product demand as well as scarcity of computer chips, oils and chemicals and higher raw material prices.

“We can’t hold onto all of this,” said Galanti. “Some of it has to be passed on, and it is passed on. We are pragmatic about it.”

To quantify the situation, he said inflation is likely to be between 3.5% and 4.5% for Costco. He noticed that Paper products saw cost increases of 4% to 8% and cited shortages in plastic and pet products that are driving prices up from 5% to 11%.

“We can hold the line on some of these things and do a slightly better job – hopefully a better job than some of our competitors and even more extreme than value,” said Galanti. “So I think all of these things have worked a little in our favor so far, at least despite the challenges.”

Prepare for the holidays

However, the timing is not good.

Persistent inflationary pressures come at a time when retailers prepare for the Christmas shopping season – Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, then the New Year. The pandemic brought it about a relentless array of factors After a generation of mostly moderate price pressure, this has made inflation an economic catchphrase.

Companies are forced to deal with the situation before a critical phase.

“We’re approaching the holidays, we’ve worked with retailers, and we see that # 1 they need to be flexible with their supply chain,” said Keith Jelinek, executive director of global retail practice at consulting firm Berkeley Research Group. “We noticed an increase in the cost of goods, especially for clothing, including the cost of inbound shipping with the cost of containers, increases in transport, truck transports to get to distribution centers.”

“All of these costs will weigh on operating profit,” he added. “Retailers are currently facing the challenge of how much I can pass on to the consumer, or how I can get other efficiencies out of my operations to meet my overall margin.”

Many companies have signaled that consumers are ready, at least for now, to accept higher prices. Trillions of government incentives during the pandemic helped increase personal wealth Household net worth increased by 4.3% in the second quarter.

In the company’s conference call on Thursday, Nike CFO Matthew Friend referred to the price increases in the second half of the year, as well as “more than expected full price realization” and “additional transportation, logistics and air freight costs to move inventory in this dynamic environment”.

Nobody knows how long consumers will be willing to pay higher prices. Jelinek said he anticipates the current situation will last at least during the holiday season and until early next year

“There is only a limited amount that you can give to consumers,” he said. “What most retailers do is think about theirs [profit and loss statements] and they want to improve performance and optimize efficiency. That means really focusing on your supply chain. “

It also means raising prices.

Corporate warnings

FedEx announced this week that it will add 5.9% to the shipping cost for domestic services and 7.9% for other offers. The company said it was hit by labor shortages and “costs related to the challenging operating environment”.

The head of the company’s main competitor admitted the hurdles the business is facing.

“The job market is tight and in certain parts of the country we have had to make some market price adjustments to respond to market demands.” UPS CEO Carol Tome said on CNBC’s Thursday, “Closing bell. “

She added that the company was also affected by supply chain issues.

“I’m afraid this will continue for a while. These problems have been a long time coming and we must all work together to remove these blockages, ”said Tome.

Federal Reserve officials this week admitted that inflation will be higher in 2021 than they expected. However, you can still see that prices will settle in a more normal range of just over 2% in the years to come.

But Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said in a speech on Friday that she saw “upside risks” for the central bank’s inflation projections.

“Many companies report that cost pressures are mounting and consumers are willing to pay higher prices,” she said. “The combination of strong demand and supply chain challenges could last longer than I expected, leading people and businesses to raise their expectations of future inflation more than we have seen before.”

Fed officials said they were ready to withdraw monetary stimulus They provided during the pandemic, but prices are unlikely to increase anytime soon. However, if prices and expectations stay higher, Mester said, Fed policies would have to be “adjusted” to control inflation.

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