Government urged to make tackling ‘insane’ shipping prices top priority

The Government must make forcing companies to lower shipping costs for UK businesses a “top priority”, the director of a London-based toy company has urged.

Bosses of British toy businesses have spoken of how “insane” price hikes in shipping tariffs around the world are “killing” their trade, and pushing the price of products and gifts higher.

Children’s toys are among items likely to be more expensive this Christmas.

Many in the industry have warned that the situation looks set to worsen into next year if Boris Johnson and his Cabinet do not intervene to put pressure on shipping companies to lower their prices.

The world’s largest shipping companies, such as Maersk and Cosco, have been accused of being responsible for the tenfold price increases seen this year.

Joel Bercowitz says shipping costs are "killing" small businesses. (PA/The London Toy Company)
Joel Bercowitz says shipping costs are ‘killing’ small businesses (The London Toy Company/PA)

Joel Bercowitz, owner of The London Toy Company, told the PA news agency: “We’re now eight or nine months into these price hikes. If we get to this point next year there’ll simply be no money to be made.

“It’s at that point we have to think about how we proceed, because we can’t bring in goods and not make any money. We’ve got our own bills to pay, staff to pay, and we can’t operate like this for much longer.

“It’s not just us, there are so many businesses who have already got to the point where they can’t afford to spend 18,000 dollars on one shipping container.

“It’s particularly the small and medium-sized companies that this is killing.”

Mr Bercowitz said that pre-pandemic, his company was paying 1,800 dollars for a container but currently is paying anything up to 19,000 dollars.

Founder of Wow Toys, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, said he is paying as much as 20,000 dollars for a container and said his shipping costs in total have increased eight-fold.

Harry Potter toys
The London Toy Company, which sells a range of soft toys including Harry Potter, is among hundreds of companies affected (The London Toy Company/PA)

“The Government has a lot on their plate at the moment however, this needs to be brought to the top of their priority list,” Mr Bercowitz added.

“I think everyone is aware that things can’t go on like this, it’s insane, and something has to give.”

Mr Ednan-Laperouse said: “These shipping companies have free rein, and it’s the public that will pay for it at the end of it all.

“There’s no doubt it’s going to cause an inflation problem in the UK and other countries around the world, and if Governments do not put their foot down now there’ll be a lot more pain to come in 2022.”

Toy companies look to increase prices to limit damage done by extreme shipping costs. (WOW Toys/PA)
Toys could be more expensive this Christmas because of shipping price hikes (WOW Toys/PA)

Problems are said to start at the ports in the Far East where there is a lack of empty shipping containers – an after-effect of a global shutdown on trade during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Companies are now having to wait weeks for a container to become available and then they are sold to the highest bidder.

Congestion at UK ports, then a lack of HGV drivers to transport the goods to warehouses, is causing further delays.

Retailers have warned the delays will also mean a lack of stock on the shelves over the winter period.

Industry leaders have called on the Government to include HGV drivers and port workers on the skilled workers list to allow people from Europe to work freely in the UK and alleviate the stress on the system.