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Religious goods stores are finding themselves caught up in the global supply chain crisis. CNS photo/Karen Callaway

Religious goods caught in supply woes

By 
  • November 14, 2021

Canada’s Catholic gift stores are not immune to the problems that have turned into a global supply chain crisis.

Just as goods are getting harder and harder to find on many store shelves, and some retailers warning customers to get their Christmas shopping done early, Catholic shops are running into the same supply problems.

Bobbi Blais, the owner and president of Blais Church & Religious Supplies since 1979, was finalizing shipments for the 2022 Living with Christ Sunday Missal when The Catholic Register made contact.

“Oh my gosh. The missals are usually ready the first or second weekend of October, and we are literally just getting our missals now,” said Blais. “And of course, with the transition into Advent, everyone has to have their missals. The reason that was delayed, (our suppliers) told us was because of a paper shortage.

“All around, in many different facets, we’re being affected.”

Blais’ establishment, headquartered in Stoney Creek, Ont., has a robust national reach. Its website CatholicShop.ca is one of the country’s largest Catholic online stores. She says satisfying retail demand is a more difficult proposition these days.

“We’re finding it hard to supply things that were always available to us. Things like statues, rosaries — really any gift ideas. We’re ordering, and expecting product to come in, but are finding there is going to be a one-month or two-month delay. For some items, we are actually waiting 16 months at this point.”

Candles are proving particularly cumbersome. Blais explained that the candle glass containers made in China have doubled in price over the past couple years. A crate of product formerly costing about $4,000 to ship overseas now carries a bill greater than $8,000.

Transporting containers from the ports in Vancouver to Ontario is also a headache as there are limited personnel to transport the goods.

Leigh Gorman, owner of Catholic Gifts Canada out of Dundalk, Ont., is having a tough time supplying Nativity sets, Advent wreaths and candle holders.

“My suppliers in the U.S. are telling me that it is costing more for them to purchase products and materials,” said Gorman.

It’s been well documented that once container ships dock in the U.S., crews are contending with major delays at ports like the Los Angeles, Long Beach, as well as New York and New Jersey. On Sept. 19, there was a record 73 cargo ships waiting to unload off the Port of Los Angeles. 

Unsurprisingly, an increasing collective reliance on Internet shopping caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is cited by experts as a primary driver of these bottlenecks. Labour shortages throughout North America is another.

Blais expects that Christmas in 2021 will be unavoidably different.

“We’ve tried to explain already to customers that the items are not coming in on time. I think people just have to understand that they may not have it for Christmas. What we recommend they do is make a little card stating that a gift is on its way to you. That’s about all we can do at this point,” said Blais.

The longtime business owner is guessing this backlog could persist for “at least another six to eight months.” She is keeping apprised of the headlines coming out of China, a country in the throes of an energy crisis where power curtailment measures have been introduced.

“Because of the energy crisis they are facing, there is a shortage of workers there,” said Blais. “There is such a ripple effect. Everything has just been slowed down. There is a lack of containers, in China, apparently. There is such an influx of orders coming through, from Canada and the U.S. especially most likely, that they just can’t get everything in the containers to be shipped in time.”

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