COVID-19: Delays could cause Christmas toy shortage in New Zealand stores, supplier warns

Santa sacks could feel a little lighter this year as the toy industry faces hefty delays due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Supplier Planet Fun is urging parents to start thinking about Christmas gifts now as toy stock remains stuck in container ships.

Planet Fun chief executive Jeremy Kirk-Smith says several popular brands are being impacted by the delays.

"The supply chain is an absolute mess from the very early stages of production," he told Newshub.

"We used to be able to order goods and get them shipped in 90 days, and then we would allow 25 days to get to New Zealand - that time period is now a minimum of six and sometimes seven or eight months."

Kirk-Smith said a raft of issues were causing the delays, including manufacturing and labour shortages.

"The next side of it is actually the global shipping problem so, again, I go back to the availability of containers - Americans are desperate to get goods so containers have become almost an auctionable commodity."

That's having a major impact on toy companies on this side of the world, Kirk-Smith explained.

"Americans are just paying huge amounts of money to make sure they get the goods before anybody else which is giving us, now, a massive shortage.

"We used to be able to get firm bookings on a boat… if you got a booking, it was guaranteed to sail on a particular boat. Now what has happened is that you make a booking and it may or may not make it, and it's not confirmed until it's actually on the ship.

"There's only 75 percent of the ships that used to come to New Zealand are now coming, so there's already an issue there and yet the volume of goods, or the demand for shipping, has not changed at all. If not, it's slightly increased," said Kirk-Smith.

As a result, he's urging New Zealanders to organise Christmas shopping a little earlier this year.

"All these delays are causing enormous problems throughout the network," Kirk-Smith said. "There's a high probability that there will be empty shelves in December.

"Really, really easy advice: go and do your shopping right away."

Last month, Ports of Auckland spokesperson Matt Ball said hold-ups at other international ports were having a major flow-on effect. 

"There's actually no ships… and that's a reflection of disruption on the global supply chain than it is here in Auckland."

Ports of Auckland is currently working to automate its systems to speed things up but is not expected to be in place until June.