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Maui merchants deal with long shipping waits, supply chain woes

Issues with deliveries on Mainland affecting arrival times to islands

Hamai Appliance CEO Clyde Hamai stands in one of his display kitchens at this Kahului store. Normally they do not sell display models of appliances, but due to longer shipping waits, even appliances in show kitchens may be sold. Local merchants say they are dealing with longer shipping waits and supply chain woes due to shipping delays on the Mainland and internationally. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photos

KAHULUI — From refrigerators to fabrics, goods coming to local Maui merchants are being affected by supply chain and shipping issues due to the pandemic.

At Hamai Appliance in Kahului, display models normally not for sale are being sold if customers don’t want to wait for shipping.

At Sew Special at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, fabrics and other goods ordered last year have just arrived.

“It’s just the perfect storm,” said Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

Yamaki explained Tuesday that the supply chain and shipping issues are coming to a head now, not only in Hawaii but everywhere else, pointing to the more than 60 container ships seen close to a week ago off the coast of Southern California trying to make their way into ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach. Local Maui merchants said foreign products they receive come through those ports before being sent to them.

Hamai Appliance CEO Clyde Hamai walks by one of his “pukas” on his show floor. Hamai said there are many empty spaces where refrigerators would normally be, but due to the slower shipping times he cannot fill it fast enough.

Yamaki said that the recent shipping issues could be related to the need for workers on the docks to practice social distancing, as well as tightened health measures such as required vaccinations for employees, which could affect timing of operations and numbers of available staff.

When businesses opened after the shutdown in spring 2020, manufacturers still had merchandise and goods in their warehouse, Yamaki said, so there was ample supply. But over time that supply depleted, while manufacturers may have lost workers and manufacturing plants may have needed to shut down from time to time due to COVID-19 cases, all of which have disrupted the supply chain.

However, there is not a shortage of fresh food to fly to Hawaii, nor should anyone be going out to hoard Clorox or toilet paper, she said.

“It’s on the way,” she said of the products. “(But) you may not have that brand that you want.”

“The next time you go to the stores, it might be on the shelves,” she added.

At Hamai Appliance, CEO Clyde Hamai pointed to the multiple “pukas” he had on his showroom floor Tuesday where there normally would be a refrigerator or a dishwasher.

Hamai said that earlier in the pandemic, supplies were worse.

“My floor was like a dance floor, it was empty,” he said.

Now appliances are arriving, but “it comes in and goes out.”

Not everything is in short supply, but some models may take longer to arrive or be manufactured, Hamai said.

Some higher-end models of appliances could take six to eight months to arrive, since the manufacturer may only make a small amount of the models and push their manufacturing to the end of the line in favor of quicker-selling ones.

His supplier, GE, may be impacted by the shipping woes off of California, where international supplies arrive. He said GE has merchandise that comes from Asia.

Hamai said that appliances are available, but there may not be the style or model that shoppers are looking for, though he does provide alternatives.

At Sew Special, Patricia Huntley said that even though her suppliers may be based in the U.S., those suppliers’ textile manufactures may be in Japan or Korea, where COVID has also hit hard and may have disrupted the supply chain.

Those fabrics in Asia then need to be sent to the U.S., where they are unloaded in California and then sent to the supplier in the U.S., who will then ship the product to Sew Special.

“It all trickles down,” Huntley said of the time it takes for some of her product to arrive, which may have been exacerbated by the cargo ships lined off the coast of Southern California.

“People ask us, when do you expect (a shipment)?” said Huntley, who tells customers that “honestly, we can’t give you a date.”

The store was stocked with merchandise on Tuesday, some of which Huntley said they ordered in bulk, as they do not want to run out if there is another COVID-related shutdown.

“We are literally at the mercy of everyone else,” she said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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