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Hawaii retailers scramble to get more inventory ahead of Black Friday

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Retailers have been hit especially hard over the past year and a half with off and on closures and restrictions due to COVID-19. With holiday shopping getting revved up, many businesses are hoping to recoup some of their losses.

HONOLULU (KITV4) -- Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year and retailers are scrambling to find ways to get more inventory on the shelves.

Right about now, Bradley Ishii, owner of Thinker Toys and Thinker Things, would normally be in the process of reordering the most popular items for Christmas.

"A lot of our manufacturers say don't call us, we're not going to take your orders," Ishii said. "And that is like wow, that's amazing. Why would they not want to order? Because they can't get the product. It's still out in the ocean."

Inventory's down as much as 30%. Ishii's rushing to fly products in from the mainland and overseas.

"We're crossing our fingers," he said. "It's a very tight squeeze."

He said the holiday season's critical for him. It represents about 40% of his annual business.

Ishii's not alone.

Tina Yamaki is the president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. She said retailers are reporting some holiday shipments won't be coming in until the end of January or early February. That's because of labor and material shortages and other supply-chain issues affecting just about all consumer goods.

"Everyone's kind of just waiting on pins and needles to see when their shipments are going to be coming in," Yamaki said. "I think there's a lot of praying and a lot of hoping going on that the shipments will come in before the holiday season ends."

She added that many retailers are carrying huge debt because of closures during the pandemic, but still have to pay rent, taxes and operational expenses.

And prices are rising.

Ishii said transportation costs have quadrupled...to as much as $20,000 per shipping container.

"So in turn, we have to you know slowly raise our prices but hopefully not too much to discourage you know our consumers," Ishii said.

Still, retailers said it's make it or break it time and they're hoping to make enough to carry on in 2022.

Produced in partnership with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

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