As you may have noticed when you started your Christmas shopping, there was a lot of empty space on store shelves... and not just in the board game section. But what’s the reason behind these empty spaces? There are, actually, a multitude of reasons creating this chain reaction.
Yes, it all started with that damn COVID-19. It’s got a lot to answer for! We live in an era where globalisation is omnipresent in our consumption patterns. This means that consumer goods are produced all over the world and then transported to far-flung places around the globe.
As you probably know, many products are manufactured in Asia. But what happens when some Chinese seaports close because of COVID? The obvious thing to do is to go to the next nearest port. It’s such a great idea, in fact, that everyone did it. The setback is that this wonderful idea also created significant congestion, and fewer ships were able to leave the port with several hundred containers on board, slowing down the supply to the distribution centres. At the beginning of a pandemic, needless to say, vaccines, masks and disinfectant take priority over board games.
Then, the pandemic spreads, and when the ships arrive in Europe and America, there is a lockdown on THAT end of the chain, resulting in fewer workers available to handle the equipment for unloading the containers. Once the container finally makes it onto a delivery truck, the driver (one of the few available) often finds themselves knocking on the door of a closed warehouse or, if they are lucky, one that is open... but staffed with only a skeleton crew. They all do their best to empty the container quickly. The result? Well, it now takes nine or ten days for a container to get back to a port on the West Coast of the United States, rather than two or three days, as it was BP (Before the Pandemic).
Meanwhile, in China, the pandemic is on the wane, and factories are returning to an acceptable pace. But where are the containers needed to ship the products? Just about everywhere, except in China, being slowly unloaded into a land-locked warehouse, and not in transit on a sea route. The result? New goods can’t be shipped without containers, so the goods sit... and wait.
The situation I’m describing was taking place in June... 2020. I don't need to go into detail about the series of extraordinary events that were set in motion. And I'm not talking about the freighter that blocked the Suez Canal for I don't know how many days.
Generally speaking, shipping times have tripled.
I understand the logical conclusion most people will draw: Long live local! I agree... and so do many, many other industries. Some manufacturing has moved out of Asia to Europe; so much so that printers are now telling us that there’s a paper shortage. And it’s not a “we’re running out” shortage, it’s a “there’s no more paper, and we have to wait for raw material" shortage. Instead of the normal 55 days (more or less) that it takes to produce a game, we are now booking, in advance, the number of tonnes of paper we will need in six to seven months. This was in June 2021. If you calculate it, six months ahead lands us in December! That's right! Many businesses will not be able to offer certain products until January 2022, even if the products are locally produced.
So that sums up the improbable, yet very real, story of the end of 2021!
Once a month Scorpion Masqué's Grand Poobah shares his thoughts with you. From how the market has evolved, to writing rules that make sense, with detours into game mechanisms, you will get a glimpse at the board game industry from the point of view of a publisher.
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