The United States is facing a liquor shortage ahead of the holiday season due to the supply chain crisis — and states with government liquor stores are rationing their inventory.
Container ships are waiting to unload in the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports as labor shortages in the United States and COVID-19 lockdowns in Asia create shipping bottlenecks. Despite President Biden’s decision to keep the Port of Los Angeles open “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the crisis has persisted.
Indeed, many economists expect the problems to last for several months. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said that high consumer demand and supply-side constraints — such as “container ship carrying capacity, container shortages, labour shortages, continued on and off COVID-19 restrictions across port regions and congestion at ports” — could lead to price hikes through 2023.
As detailed in an NBC News report, the bottlenecks affect the availability of liquor and other beverages throughout the United States. The outlet highlights Jacquin’s — a distillery in Philadelphia — and its efforts to supply consumers with eggnog throughout the holidays.
“The caps have been one of my biggest fears with the supply chain. It typically would be a four-to-six-week lead time when all is well. That has been extended to four to six months,” explained manager Jim Logan.
He explained that if one component is missing, “We cannot produce… even if we have the product. So then you’re talking about dumping product down the drain.”
Stifel chief economist Lindsey Piegza told NBC: “When we look at prices, we’re seeing in many cases double-digit gains in everything from gasoline to corn feed to lumber. Really [we’re] seeing inflation hit a thirty-year high.”
Pennsylvania and Virginia — both of which have state-run liquor systems — are rationing their supply in anticipation of shortages.
“The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board notified license holders on Thursday that two-bottles-per-day purchase limits for customers at state stores, as well as well for bars, restaurants and other license holders, will remain in place indefinitely,” reported KDKA Pittsburgh in September. “The list of rationed booze — a small fraction of the vast array of items the state liquor system sells — contains specific types of champagne, bourbon, tequila, cognac and whiskey.”
“Virginia residents might not be able to buy their favorite brand of liquor due to a shortage… As of Thursday, October 21, 2021, 189 out of 5,287 products are out of stock,” explained FOX59. “Virginia ABC said factors affecting the shortage include raw materials, the trucking industry, and congestion at major U.S. shipping ports. Another main contributor is labor shortages.”
Beyond alcoholic beverages, consumers are expected to increase their reliance upon thrift stores due to unpredictable shipping delays and limited inventory. According to ThredUp’s survey of 2,000 American adults over the age of eighteen, 52% are also worried that “popular gifts will be more expensive this year.”
Another report from CNBC suggests that Christmas trees may be in low supply.
“Consumers should buy now because by the time we get to Thanksgiving, which is a peak week for us, I think there’s going to be a lot of empty shelves,” National Tree Company CEO Chris Butler told the outlet. “We’re seeing pretty strong growth right now already versus last year and so, I do think that we’re in for a big, big season this year.”
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