(CNN) – On your next trip to Costco, don’t be surprised if you can’t find your favorite cheese.
Costco is struggling to store imported cheese due to a shortage of shipping containers around the globe and bottlenecks in key west coast ports such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and Seattle. The combination has created delays for suppliers shipping their goods, retailers like Costco receiving products, and higher costs down the supply chain.
“Overseas freight continues to be a problem in terms of shortage of containers and port delays. This has resulted in delays in certain categories, ”said Richard Galanti, Costco’s Chief Financial Officer, speaking to analysts last week.
The problem isn’t just limited to cheese, but also seafood, olive oils, furniture, sporting goods, and lawn and gardening equipment, Galanti said.
He expects the pressure to ease in the coming months, but it’s affecting everyone.
Pressure on the supply chain has been constant for retailers throughout the pandemic. A chorus of chains including Crocs, Urban Outfitters, Foot Locker and Dollar Tree have cited the shortage of containers and residues in West Coast ports as the newest challenges in securing goods for consumers in recent weeks.
“Importing products from Asia, shipping them via Long Beach and other ports, and shipping them to customers is a real challenge right now,” said Andrew Rees, CEO of Crocs, speaking to analysts on February 23. “I think this will smooth out over time, but it will take a while.”
“We have some delays in receiving imported goods due to global equipment shortages and port congestion issues,” said Kevin Wampler, CFO of Dollar Tree, last week.
At Anthropologie, the arrival of housewares in the US has also been delayed due to container shortages in Asia, Francis Conforti, COO of Urban Outfitters, told analysts.
“We’re seeing a very, very slight improvement and we hope the improvement will continue at a moderate pace.”
The demand for food, furniture, home appliances, and housewares has increased in the pandemic as consumers spend more time at home. It hasn’t let up.
U.S. ocean imports rose 20% in January year over year. This comes from the latest data available from Panjiva, a global trade data research company. According to Panjiva, imports of consumer goods such as household appliances were the biggest growth driver.
Higher demand and supply chain disruptions are also driving up costs: the total cost of shipping to the United States was $ 6.36 billion in January, compared to $ 2.46 billion a year earlier.
“The supply chain has reached its full potential,” said Jon Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs for the National Retail Federation, a retail trade group. Gold said US ports are “unable to handle incoming volume due to increased demand,” as have hundreds of workers sick from COVID-19.
“Containers sit longer in port than usual,” and “availability of empty containers has been a challenge both here and overseas,” he said.
The pressure has seen more companies turn to air freight to ship goods. Up until now, air freight was “always a last resort because it was eight to ten times more expensive than ocean freight,” he said.
According to Gold, companies are trying to avoid passing the higher costs they face on to consumers. However, some retailers may be forced to offset the surge with price increases on the shelves.