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Bay Area Businesses Impacted by Cargo Slowdown at California Ports

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Faced with a massive shipping backlog at Southern California ports impacting businesses and consumers in the Bay Area and across the nation, the Biden Administration on Wednesday took steps to make sure goods are delivered.

With a crisp fall chill in the air and Halloween fast approaching, Flexport Chief Economist Phil Levy says it's time to start thinking about your holiday shopping now.

"Do your shopping early. Don't wait and assume that the stores and the shelves will be full," Levy told KPIX 5.

The problem is a gummed-up supply chain. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced a deal to unclog the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach which have ships and containers waiting to unload off of the Southern California coast.

"After weeks of negotiation and working with my team and the major union retailers and freight movers, the Port of Los Angeles announced today that it's going to begin operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This follows the Port of Long Beach's commitment to operate 24/7," Biden said from the White House.

Meg Shackleton owns jewelry store Margaret Elizabeth on San Francisco's Chestnut Street. The jewelry is designed locally by Shackleton and manufactured in India. She's sweating the winter holidays and deliveries.

"Our typical lead times are usually 4 to 6 weeks. And when I checked in with our team just a couple of days ago, they let me know that our delivery that should be coming in for Christmas is going to be more like six to eight weeks. Which means we are getting close to the actual holiday," said Shackleton.

In the East Bay, many of the small businesses on Main Street in Pleasanton say a majority of their annual revenue comes from holiday shoppers, but with a shaky supply chain, getting even the basics has been an issue.

Sharon Mattern and her husband own American Harvest, a gift shop on Main Street that has been in business for more than 20 years. This year, she has the windows decorated for Halloween, but it's a different story when it comes to the merchandise.

"We just didn't receive nearly what we should have," Mattern told KPIX 5.

They know the ins and outs of running a gift shop and always order for Halloween in January, but this year they've only received a small portion of the inventory they ordered.

"They said we wouldn't get it until November, so that doesn't help me. We're into Christmas by then," Mattern said, prompting their business to cancel the majority of her Halloween orders.

Levy says Biden's deal with LA and Long Beach will help at the margins, but that the supply-chain problem is not just a backlog at the ports and customs; it's also getting things moving on the ground.

"With trucking, do you have ability to deliver all of these. And you've had truckers first in short supply and second subject to the same kind of difficulties that the rest of us have had with health concerns and the like. So, it's been a real problem."

Shackleton says she's trying to plan around issues, but it's tough.

"It's not necessarily delays you're finding out about at the time of placing an order," she explained. "It's something that you remember, 'Oh, that's supposed to be coming in this week,' only to find out we're a couple of weeks out."

Andria Borba and Katie Nielsen contributed to this report.

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