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Local toy store chain keeps shelves stocked, even during supply chain crisis

The situation with cargo ships waiting off the coast is not getting any better. This week, the Marine Exchange of Southern California reported a record 86 ships waiting for a berth to become available.

But you'd never know it by walking into a Geppetto's toy store.

Geppetto’s owner Brian Miller says all nine of his San Diego stores look like the one KPBS visited in Seaport Village — brimming with the toys, games and books little ones will want this year.

But with so many retailers reporting problems getting merchandise, how did he do it? One word: preparation. Miller began to see the handwriting on the wall last spring when demand started going up as the pandemic eased.

“At that time, supply chain issues really started kicking in. So I tried to beef up our inventory for the holidays cause I knew it was coming — ordered lots, programmed out lots of orders," Miller said.

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Roland Lizarondo
The interior of Geppetto's toy store at Seaport Village is shown on Nov. 11, 2021.

But Miller says keeping stores like the one in Seaport Village fully stocked is a constant struggle.

“If I order six items from a manufacturer, two of them are going to come. They’re going to come a little late, two of them aren’t going to come at all cause they can’t get them and two are maybe gonna come, maybe we’ll get them around Christmas," said Miller. "Normally before all this, I would order and two weeks later, our products would show up, or if it didn’t show up, the manufacturer could tell me, 'OK, it’s arriving on this date or about this date.' All those projections are gone. They don’t know what to expect now."

So, Miller can’t get everything he or, more importantly, his customers want.

Holding a green plush dragon, he said, “If your grandchild wanted the pink version of this dragon, I would find out when we could get it and I’d order it for the customer. But I can’t do that this year.”

Something else Miller is having trouble getting is staff. He’s got a lot of positions open as we head into this challenging holiday season.