With West Coast Ports Open, Marketers Face Backlogs

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The end of the West Coast port shutdown is not the end of problems for direct marketers.

Bob Faville, the director of direct marketing for Hello Direct, San Jose, CA, a business-to-business cataloger of telephony products, said the massive backlog of freight to be unloaded affects about half-a-dozen items out of the 350 in his company's catalog.

"We're getting backlogged, seeing what our priorities are on orders and trying to get back to customers to let them know when they will get their goods," he said. "We have one week of stock on a couple of proprietary products that come from China, and we're hearing that it may take two to four weeks to clear, depending on where your container is in the queue."

U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a temporary injunction last week at the request of President Bush that ended the lockout of dock workers. Alsup is expected to approve an 80-day cooling-off period and the restart of negotiations as mandated by the Taft-Hartley Act on Oct. 16.

It is expected to take nine weeks to unload the backed-up cargo, according to reports.

"When we knew [the shutdown] was going to happen, we shifted to air freight to get merchandise in, just to offset any immediate impact," said Skip Hartzell, executive vice president and chief creative officer at The Mark Group, Boca Raton, FL. "We have apparel for our three brands -- Boston Proper, Mark Fore & Strike and Charles Keath -- hung up on the West Coast -- things for our spring books more so than for our Christmas books.

"It's a matter of how long that stuff is tied up there. It may create some back orders for some of our customers. Our spring preview book goes out at the end of this month, so we might have some reshipments on some of our better-selling fall items."


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