Plenty of toys
for Christmas

Stores say the dock lockout
delayed some shipments, but
goods should arrive in time

By Russ Lynch

Hawaii's department stores say Christmas business will largely be unaffected by cargo shipping tangles on the West Coast.

The seasonal goods are either already here or on the way and if the slowdown that some predict for a few weeks from now does happen, Hawaii stores will already have what they need, retailers say.

"We had done some early purchasing in anticipation of a possible slowdown," said Anne Hand, district general manager of Sears, Roebuck & Co. The company does have some items from Asia that are stuck on inbound ships waiting to be unloaded in California so they can be forwarded to Hawaii, Hand said.

But ships have been bringing in Sears merchandise since early this month. "We are getting our initial shipments now, from a week ago," Hand said. She said Sears will be receiving the extra seasonal items through the rest of October and maybe some in November. The November shipments will only be because there is a limit to the volume of goods the stores can handle at one time.

Sears says despite the waterfront lockout and the faltering Hawaii economy, business looks good for the rest of the year.

"I think we're going to have a good fourth quarter," Hand said.

The J.C. Penney stores in the islands "are in good shape for the holidays," said Tim Lyons, a spokesman at Penney's corporate headquarters in Plano, Texas.

Lyons said the outlook in Hawaii is positive because of "the merchandise they already had on hand and some of the movement that happened with goods over the past week or so." Shipping to Hawaii has not become an issue, Lyons said.

J.C. Penney is closing three of its four Hawaii stores in January. Its stores on Oahu and the Big Island will shut down, while its Maui store will remain.

Macy's stores and their vendors already have been air-freighting a lot of goods into Hawaii and now that the ships are moving again there is "a relatively small concern" about the supply line, said Judy Larch, Macy's vice president of merchandising for Hawaii and Guam.

"We expect minimal delays over the next couple of weeks. We have our stores pretty well stocked for Christmas," she said. Everything should be nicely lined up for the real start of the Christmas season on Nov. 1, Larch said.

At Shirokiya in Ala Moana Center, store manager Walter Watanabe said there are small worries because "everything got delayed" and merchandise from the West Coast is a little behind schedule.

"But our Christmas items are coming in already," Watanabe said. Shirokiya's business in Japanese foods and related merchandise is not affected because those items come from Japan directly to Hawaii aboard NYK Lines vessels, without going to the West Coast, he said.

Watanabe said Shirokiya has plenty of merchandise. The big-name Japanese electronics goods, such as Sony and Panasonic televisions, do come through the West Coast, he said, but Watanabe was unaware of any problems.

Sony Hawaii, which distributes Sony products to the retailers in the islands, said there have been delays in getting parts on inbound ships on the West Coast so they can be delivered to Sony's factories in the United States and Mexico to be turned into finished products.

"But we aren't affected immediately," said Karl Okemura, Sony Hawaii vice president. "Some of our dealers anticipated a strike and brought in enough ahead of time."

Like many companies, Sony has a supply line based on "just in time" inventory and any snags can cause problems but the company doesn't have any particular worries in Hawaii, Okemura said.

"We are anticipating pretty good sales," he said.

Ashley Furniture HomeStore, a newcomer to the Honolulu retail scene which opened its store at Waikele Oct. 3, managed to get its startup goods here in time, said George Norcross, a partner in the local operation.

There are some delays in the furniture shipments, he said, which are running a week or so behind schedule.

Ashley is not a typical retailer, however. It does not keep a furniture inventory. It is a sales agent for Ashley Furniture on the mainland and takes individual orders from customers and then arranges shipping, he said.

So far, except for some delays, that is working adequately, he said.

Furnishings and accessories sold in the store are in stock and have been selling but more are coming, he said.

Norcross was optimistic that it will all work out, but he said it hasn't been easy to nail down commitments from the shipping companies.

Meanwhile, ships are moving. Matson Navigation Co. had one ship a day arriving in the islands over the past four days and has another arriving Friday and one Sunday.

CSX Lines had a ship arrive Friday, another Monday and another yesterday. There is also a CSX arrival scheduled for Friday.

At the KB Toys store in Ala Moana, the flagship of the company's nine stores in Hawaii, store manager Robin Lo is not worried.

"We are most definitely confident we'll be getting all our stuff and it is starting now," she said.

Christmas trees are not yet a problem.

They don't usually arrive until around Thanksgiving. There have been predictions of a slowdown in shipping a few weeks from now as Hawaii cargo carriers Matson Navigation Co. and CSX Lines have to compete with dozens of other ships for labor as clogged West Coast ports work to clear the cargo backlog.

Shipping line managers have accused the West Coast dock workers' union, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, of deliberately slowing work as a protest against government-imposed 80-day back-to-work cooling off period.

The ILWU says it is only concerned about safety because of the huge amount of cargo stacked up on the docks and the flurry of truck and crane activity needed to move it.

But even if cargo movement does slow to a crawl next month, Hawaii's Christmas goods will already be in the islands, store managers said.

And if a strike or further stoppage takes place after the 80 days runs out at the end of December? That's a worry for next year.

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