Logjam at West Coast Ports a Nightmare for Retailers

Big chains struggling to keep inventories in stock amid labor dispute
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2015 2:51 PM CST
Logjam at West Coast Ports a Nightmare for Retailers
A container ship sits anchored in Elliott Bay in view of other ships docked at the Port of Seattle.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

If you can't find your size in new Levi's this spring, you can blame a logjam of ships at West Coast ports. A labor dispute that's been dragging on for nine months now is taking an unmistakable toll on retailers all over the US, reports the Washington Post. The industry as a whole expects to lose a staggering $7 billion when the costs of rerouting and delays are factored in, and pretty much any company you can name—Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, JC Penney, Levi's, Honda, and Ralph Lauren are among those mentioned in coverage—is struggling to keep up-to-date inventory in stock, reports the Wall Street Journal. Meat and poultry producers are losing an estimated $85 million a week because of the slowdown.

The dispute is between the Pacific Maritime Association (representing shipping companies and terminal operations) and dockworkers who belong to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The impasse is so severe that the White House dispatched Labor Secretary Tom Perez over the weekend to try to broker a settlement in person. No wonder: Given that the ports involved handle half of US maritime trade and 70% of shipments from Asia, the "domino effect" on the US economy is widespread and getting worse, reports Reuters. (Read more retailers stories.)

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