NJ toy store bracing for bare shelves, thinks outside of the box

'We’ve never experienced this before,' owner of Learning Express Toys says

A New Jersey toy store owner explained a unique solution to keeping her shelves stocked amid unprecedented supply chain issues, which she said caused a 30% drop in inventory ahead of the holiday shopping season. 

"We’ve never experienced this before," Diane Bowser, owner of Learning Express Toys in Morristown, said during an interview with FOX Business’ Lydia Hu on "Mornings with Maria" on Thursday. 

"So what we’re trying to do is look at categories and in each category, if we can’t get [products] from the vendor that we would normally get from because of supply chain issues, we’re looking to source outside of that and get from another vendor." 

Bowser also noted that she is buying products from local manufacturers as well to make sure that her store stays stocked with holiday items. 

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Toy companies are rushing to get their products to stores as they deal with severe supply chain disruptions by trying to find containers to ship their products while searching for alternative ports. Some companies are flying in some of the toys instead of shipping them by boat. 

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One business is even leaving some toys behind in China as it waits for shipping costs to come down.

President and CEO of Basic Fun! Jay Foreman told "Mornings with Maria" on Thursday that freight is one of the biggest constraints. 

"Not having enough labor is really a problem right now to move everything around the country," he said. 

Foreman also noted that "in a normal year there’s one or two of the 10 or 15 things in the supply chain that challenge us." 

All manufactures have been faced with supply chain problems since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which first temporarily closed factories in China and then led to U.S. stores halting production amid lockdowns. Since the spring, the challenges have been exacerbated by surging demand when lockdowns were lifted. 

Manufacturers are dealing with bottlenecks at factories and key ports, including the Port of Long Beach in California. In addition, worker shortages in the U.S. have made it challenging to get products unloaded from ships and onto trucks.

Foreman said his company is facing "challenges" in "every part of the supply chain that we deal with, from factory closures and power outages in China, to clogging at the ports in China [and] L.A., lack of trucking, warehouse labor and worst of all the inflation and the cost of bringing the freight around the world to toy stores." 

Although Bowser’s shipping costs have increased, so far she has not hiked up prices to offset the added expense. 

Container ships wait off the coast of the congested Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Long Beach, California. REUTERS/ Alan Devall (REUTERS/ Alan Devall / Reuters)

"We’re doing the best that we can to maintain our prices," she said on Thursday. 

"We feel that this is going to be a temporary move so we don’t want to increase prices in the hope that it will all go back down after this is resolved and we get back to normal." 

She added that although "we’re trying to keep everything level," the store might not offer as many discounts as it normally would.

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She also recommended people shop early for their holiday gifts and stressed that the store is working to make sure they have enough inventory to meet the demand. 

Hu noted that Bowser is limiting purchases on popular items as a way to make sure there is enough supply to meet the holiday demand. 

Bowser acknowledged that her store will "absolutely run out "of certain items. 

"But what we will look to do is make sure that we always have something so that way there will be something underneath the tree or for Hanukkah or all holidays," Bowser said. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.