President Joe Biden met with CEOs of major U.S. retailers in a Cyber Monday roundtable to discuss the supply chain crisis amid rising prices and growing concern that products may not be available during the holiday season.
“The business leaders gathered here today represent a broad swath of American shopping,” Biden said in his opening statement. “I want to hear from each of you about what you’re seeing this holiday season, how well prepared are you to have products you need on your shelves, and how you’ve innovated and hired to overcome these supply chain challenges you have.”
Attendees at the meeting included chief executives of Best Buy, Samsung, Todos Supermarket, Food Lion, Mattel, CVS Health, Walmart, Kroger, Qurate Retail Group, and Etsy. The president remarked that estimates show sales figures from Black Friday and Small Business Saturday were considerably higher than last year, and inquired how the federal government could “continue partnering” with the retailers “to keep shelves stocked so American consumers can get what they need.”
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon joined the meeting virtually and said that the administration’s efforts, like extending port hours to ease the freight congestion, was having a positive impact on the flow of goods.
“Because of what you all did to help with overnight hours, and because of the team’s work to reroute to other ports, to extend our lead times, and have other creative solutions, we have seen an increase in throughput over the last four weeks of about 26 percent nationally in terms of getting containers through ports,” McMillon said.
Though the traffic at ports seems to be improving, there still remain long wait times for unloading shipping containers, and, according to FactSet, a record number of S&P 500 companies are still using the terms “inflation” and “supply chains” on analyst calls, as reported by MarketWatch.
Meg Ham, president of Food Lion said that the company’s “food supply chain remains robust and there is ample product available for customers on our shelves.”
Karen Lynch, CEO of CVS, said that the administration’s efforts were seeing progress in port congestion and “the outlook for maintaining stocked shelves improves each day.” She added, “With regard to our pharmacies, we’ve been able to utilize our expertise and extensive partnerships throughout the supply chain to ensure the continued availability of prescription medications since the onset of the pandemic.”
Todos Supermarket CEO Carlos Castro said that even though “customers can rely on us during the holidays, independent grocers unfortunately continue to face competitive disadvantages when sourcing products in short supply.”
With the consumer price index increasing 6.2 percent, the most in 31 years, and the price of food going up 5.2 percent this year, Thanksgiving weekend was expensive for many Americans as they spent more on turkey and pies than during any recent holidays. Combined with supply chain shortages, consumers have been shopping earlier than usual to ensure they have sufficient stocks at home before shelves empty.
After the roundtable, Biden was scheduled to deliver remarks on “his administration’s work to strengthen the nation’s supply chains, lower everyday costs for families, and ensure that shelves are well-stocked this holiday season.”
But a last minute change rescheduled it for Wednesday, because the president “wanted to ensure ample time spent with the business leaders who traveled to the White House today,” according to a White House official.