So, who will be “the Grinch” this Christmas?
It’s a holiday season that’s shaping up to be a grim one, by many accounts.
But the problem isn’t someone whose heart is two sizes too small.
Instead, it’s the twisted supply chain and the phenomenon of on demand logistics that have delayed deliveries and left Santa and his elves — and even parents — worried about deliveries running into this December, as detailed in today’s front page story.
Supply chains evolved in recent years as companies tried to cut overhead as much as possible.
Having goods sit in warehouses and stockrooms was an obvious area of waste. Computerized tools — like the bar codes on everything from a sack of mulch at a garden center to an individual peach in the supermarket — allowed companies to know what was going out of their doors and what needed to come in to match consumer demand. Costs were controlled, waste minimized and profits increased. And Americans could have the goods they wanted, when they wanted them. Sometimes delivered right to their doors. It seemed a perfect solution.
One of the casualties of the new efficiency was iconic New England retailer Building 19 and its fractional successors. They sold everything from rugs to hardware to fashionable shoes at deep discounts. Some were goods damaged in fire, flood or other disaster but a lot of the inventory came from overstocks — merchandise that had been sitting in warehouses, unsold, for too long. Without overstocks, Building 19 lost a key source. The last store closed in 2013.
In a story earlier this year, The Sun Chronicle looked at some of the issues with the modern supply chain. We quoted Mitchell Glavin, a professor at Stonehill College in Easton, who pointed out the system seemed built to anticipate the ups and downs of supply and demand.
But there were some things it could not forecast. “When you have reduced inventory as low as you can, you don’t have as much slack,” Galvin said, when the unexpected happens.
And no one expected a world-wide pandemic. Its consequences have led to a rolling cascade of factory shutdowns, labor shortages and material scarcity that’s affected everything from glass for liquor bottles to lumber to microchips.
And even though both the pandemic and supply chain issues began well before last November’s U.S. election, the issue has become intensely political — with Republicans laying the blame at the feet of Joe Biden (one conservative pundit even comparing him to — horrors — Jimmy Carter) and Democrats pointing to the early lagging response of the Trump administration to the pandemic.
Even the suggestion that, just perhaps, we could do with a little less this Christmas is being denounced in some of the more overheated corners of social media as unAmerican.
But it’s worth recalling that in the Dr. Seuss story, even the Grinch, who thought that boxes, bags and tags and presents made the holiday, couldn’t stop Christmas from coming.
“Somehow or other, it came just the same.”
But it still wouldn’t hurt to shop early, if you want to get that choice Who roast beast.