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Local businesses struggle to find t-shirts, hats to fill orders

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There isn’t much in common between computer chips, chicken wings, and t-shirts, but one is that they are all getting harder and harder to find.

Like local car dealers and restaurants, Summit County t-shirt stores are struggling to cope with supply shortages.

A supply chain at full capacity

“It’s been a nightmare,” said Shawn Ritchie, owner of Ritchie Sporting Goods in Tallmadge.

Ritchie orders his products from many wholesale clothing companies nationwide, such as SanMar and One Stop, as well as major brands such as Gildan, JerZees, Adidas and Nike. All have had problems filling orders over the past six months, he said.

Action sports clothing in Norton has been hit by a shortage of T-shirts and hats, according to Justin Jivan, one of the store’s employees.

The main reason for these shortages and delays is the supply chain, which is currently at full capacity, according to Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation, and Nate Herman, senior vice president of policy for American Apparel. & Shoe Association.

“We are seeing issues with companies large and small who are having difficulty bringing products to market,” Gold said. “It starts overseas with the foreign factories that have obviously been affected by COVID and had staffing issues to be able to meet the consumer demand that we have seen.”

Problems affect almost every step of the supply chain, including parts that take place in the United States. These problems include timely entry and exit from ports and lack of equipment. For example, chassis, which are trailers specially designed to transfer containers from trucks between ports, terminals and warehouses, are rare.

“What we call this is a shipping crisis,” Herman said. “This shipping crisis threatens to leave store shelves empty, which is of particular concern to our industry as we get closer to back to school and into the holiday season.”

Offset of delivery dates

If what Ritchie needs is available, it often takes weeks or months to arrive. He recently received the last 13 jerseys from a local softball team, just in time for his last game of the season. Big league orders now flow in four or five weeks rather than arriving all at once, making it increasingly difficult to keep track of orders that have been fulfilled.

After receiving orders with continually changing delivery dates, Ritchie called manufacturers to ask them the reason for the delays and was told US Customs was to blame.

“[The wholesalers] said they keep getting those dates from customs saying, “Okay, it looks like your stuff is going to be checked in around that date,” but they don’t hit the dates, “Ritchie said. “It was a huge ripple effect. “

Michael Niezgoda, a public affairs official for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the agency “is essential and has remained complete throughout COVID-19.”

“In addition, business operations have not changed and are thoroughly inspected,” he said.

Frustrated Customers and Retailers

Some of Ritchie’s customers have been irritated and assume he is joking when he informs them that he doesn’t know when their purchase will ship or arrive.

Ritchie, with Laurie Greer, owner of T’s-N-Things in Akron, said the situation was getting worse.

This week, Greer had to buy some water blue Nevada T-shirts, having them arrive a few days later than she usually can get them. Soon after, she needed an extra-large orange safety t-shirt, but couldn’t find one after consulting with distributors across the country.

The situation often frustrates her more than the customers, but Greer always wants people to know that custom t-shirt store owners are doing the best they can.

“We need a little sympathy here,” she said. “We try to work with people on the colors, but there’s not much we can do. “

Future concerns

The shortages and delays will likely continue until 2022, Gold said, and are currently compounded by another problem.

“We are now entering peak shipping season, which is for retailers when they bring in all of their holiday merchandise for the fourth quarter, which is the holiday season, which is going to make it or break it. for retailers, ”Gold said. “So a lot of companies are now trying to get into peak season, which will continue to reduce congestion.”

The keys

Individuals and sports teams are not the only entities impacted by the shortage. Local organizations also need to adjust their clothing plans and expectations.

For example, the Summit County Fair gets its T-shirts from Akron Shirt Factory in Norton, but there have been a few bumps in the road for those shots this year. Kathy Scheetz, owner of Akron Shirt Factory, ordered this year’s brown shirts from JerZee, but couldn’t find shirts in XX-large. She had planned to purchase this size once they were back in stock, but that never happened.

Kathy Scheetz, who owns the Akron shirt factory in Norton with her husband, Ron, examines a shirt design as she talks about the couple's experience with delays and shortages.

The result: Those who buy an XX-large t-shirt at the Summit County Fair this year will be the opposite of other spectators who buy t-shirts.

In the meantime, Gold suggests that retailers continue to work closely with their sellers and providers while researching other ports to pass through. Some members of the National Retail Federation have started to have their products shipped by air.

“It really has an impact on everyone at all levels: all industries, imports of all sizes and shapes, even manufacturers,” Gold said. “There isn’t just one piece that can fix everything, because it’s one bullet built together.”

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Tawney Beans at [email protected] and on Twitter @TawneyBeans.


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