Jack Griffiths thought he could not have any more bad luck trying to bring loungewear from China to the UK. Earlier this year, he had £450,000 worth of stock delayed for months after being stuck on the Ever Given container ship, which blocked the Suez Canal.
But with the busy Christmas trading period around the corner and delays for large vessels docking at the UK’s largest port, the 26-year-old entrepreneur from Teesside is worried if his latest shipments will arrive on time.
“We learned a valuable lesson, not to put out all stock on the same ship,” says Griffiths, who co-founded the firm, Snuggy, with his business partner, Joel Pierre, in late 2019. “But now we have faced another lesson. As soon as the stock had shipped we were told there would be delays.”
One of five scheduled shipments has docked in the UK and is being unloaded at Felixstowe. However, Griffiths has not been able to find an HGV driver available to bring the goods, worth about £1m, to him until early November.
“We can’t get the stock from Felixstowe to us. It is unbelievably frustrating as it’s on land in the UK. It makes me want to get a van and go and get it.”
Griffiths says he is being contacted daily by customers eager to buy the firm’s Snuggy pod, a tent-like dome which fits over a child’s bed. The product has been out of stock for months, and customers have ordered the pod to ensure they can get one when it does arrive in the UK.
“We ordered well ahead of schedule, but these delays seem to be one thing after another and we are now keeping customers waiting,” he says.
Snuggy imports about 99% of its stock by sea from Asia, with the remainder being brought in by air.
Griffiths has looked into alternatives to shipping, but says the costs of air and rail freight are prohibitively high for a small business.
However, transporting goods by sea has become considerably more expensive in the almost two years the business has been operating. The cost of shipping a container has almost doubled from $9,000 (£6,600) in late 2019 to $16,000.
“We are a small business and quite seasonable, so we need to make the most of the winter months,” says Griffiths.