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The Supply Chain Crisis Isn’t Just Global — it’s Local

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November 5, 2021

By Barrett Seaman —

Hardly a day goes by without a headline story about the breakdown in the international supply chain that moves goods — both finished products and their myriad components — around the world and keeps the economy humming. We see photos of the largest commercial ports in the U. S. — Los Angeles and Long Beach, New Orleans, Baltimore and New York — piled high with empty shipping containers, while fully-loaded ones languish aboard ships from Asia, Europe and elsewhere as they ride anchor offshore.

At first, we were told this was a glitch brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that once the global trading system shook off the cobwebs, all would be well again. When that didn’t happen, economists speculated that the uber-efficient “just in time” strategy, first introduced by Japanese carmakers in the 1970s and ’80s, in which importers ordered only enough inventory to fill immediate needs, was too rigid to handle disruptions. Or perhaps it was due to the trade sclerosis caused by the tariff wars of the Trump years.

The specifics of why this widget or that dishwasher hasn’t made it to the retail end of the supply chain vary. The impact of their absence from store shelves and dealerships, however, is numbingly consistent. It isn’t just a global problem; it’s a local catastrophe felt right here in the rivertowns. In an informal survey of local business owners taken this past summer by The Hudson Independent, inventory shortages emerged as the number one impediment to recovery — even more so than staff shortages.

This article is the first in a series (“The Supply Chain Crisis Isn’t Just Global; It’s Local”) of periodic accounts of individual merchants in the rivertowns facing shortages that are affecting their ability to do business. Some are mere irritants; others are existential.

 

Case #1: Flying Fingers

(Barrett Seaman/The Hudson Independent)

Rivertowns residents into knitting know about Flying Fingers, the Main Street shop a door down from the Music Hall in Tarrytown with the very colorful life-size sheep parked out front on the sidewalk.

Inside are shelves upon shelves of yarn — much of which has traditionally come from South America — Peru, specifically — where sheep are plentiful and prices attractive. At the height of the pandemic, many of the mills closed down for four-to-seven months, which naturally cut into yarn deliveries. Mysteriously, white and black yarn in particular just stopped coming.

Even when the Peruvian mills stated back up again, they have been working at only 24 to 50 percent of capacity, says Elize Goldschlag, the owner and founder, “because they don’t have any people.”

In addition to basic black and white yarn, there are shortages of the big, thick weaves that are ideal for comfy scarves or sweaters. Elise suggests that her customers, many of whom come in regularly to sit around a big table in the back room and knit their own items, knit gloves or hats instead.

Yarn stocks in good times (Barrett Seaman/The Hudson Independent)

To circumvent the South American problem, Elise is now doing business with a family farm in Nebraska as well as a mill outside of Philadelphia. “Everything else is taking a super long time.”

“I just got my first batch from a company in the UK,” she says. “It was only a tiny fraction of what I had ordered.” The shelf stock has dwindled down to about half the available space in some spaces, but the knitting circles each morning are no less boisterous.

If the global supply chain crisis affects your local business, please contact The Hudson Independent.

 

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