It's Halloween in December at US ports as delayed shipments finally arrive with seasonal goods

It's Halloween in December at US ports as delayed shipments finally arrive with seasonal goods
A family removes their 12-foot-tall skeleton after Halloween.The Washington Post/Getty Images
  • A week before Christmas and holiday goods are still on their way through US ports.
  • In order to get seasonal items on time, logistics companies are leapfrogging late arrivals.

Christmas may be a week away, but US ports are just now receiving containers loaded with goods that were ordered for Halloween.

The volume of containers marked "holiday" arriving during and after Thanksgiving week is up roughly 50% over last year, according to logistics data from ImportGenius analyzed by American Shipper. The numbers indicate delays in a process that is usually much further along before Black Friday.

"What's different about this year is that Christmas merchandise is still on its way," Noah Hoffman, the VP of ground transportation for C.H. Robinson, said, according to American Shipper.

"Believe it or not, Halloween costumes are still coming through the ports. That's how backed up things still are," he said.

Hoffman said logistics firms are having to get creative at the ports to expedite those products ahead of out-of-season items that may have arrived around the same time, going so far as to unpack containers in its warehouses to pull and move the most urgent stuff.


"Why take up space on a truck with late Halloween costumes or Valentine's inventory that's arriving when toys and wrapping paper need to get to stores right now?" he said. "With so many kinks in supply chains these days, skipping a few links in the chain makes all the difference."

For holiday merchandise that missed the big day, retailers have several options that depend on just how seasonal the product is, according Howard Rosenberg, CEO of the inventory resale marketplace B-Stock.

"They could say, 'Well, I've got all these skeletons, I don't need them, I'm going to liquidate them," Rosenberg told Insider. "But they might say, 'You know, a skeleton is a skeleton, it's going to be the same skeleton next year, and so we're just going to pack it away."

But the cost of packing it away is also going up sharply as warehousing space has fallen below 4% and landlords are raising rents by as much as 25%. That could significantly change the math for companies about whether it makes sense to hold or offload pallets of seasonal goods.

The Herculean effort by global supply chain workers means Christmas is on track to arrive on time, but the disruption is likely to continue rippling across the retail industry for quite some time to come.