Step into one of Maryam Al-Hammami’s Southern California toy stores called The Game Chest, and you'll find the experience is as important as a purchase.
“I want them to be overwhelmed and excited," Al-Hammami said. “Every single person is going to find something that triggers an emotion."
While she loves the new and nostalgic toys and games on her shelves, they are products that need to make a profit.
“Forty percent of our sales are going to come out of the next 10 weeks," Al-Hammami explained.
She usually starts ordering what she thinks will be hot holiday sellers over the summer.
“You’ll just continue ordering all the way up to Christmas, and if you do it right, then you’re pretty empty by the end of Christmas which is what you want to be. That’s not happening this year," Al-Hammami said. "Everything has spiraled to the point where you just don’t know what you’re going to get, if you’re going to get anything.”
Her struggle is one felt in many stores across America.
Toy stores are trying to capitalize on a country shopping in person again, snagged by orders backed up for months.
“We’re getting 30 percent fill rates, so if I order 100 different products, I’m getting 30 of them. Now, are they going to be the 30 that I needed for Christmas time? I don’t even know that yet," Al-Hammami said.
Most of America’s toys are made in China, but many of the orders that toy stores are waiting on may be much closer than that.
Dozens of cargo ships are waiting to enter the Port of Los Angeles.
Around 40 percent of all the container goods that come into the United States come through that port and the one in nearby Long Beach.
"I’m not sure anything can solve the problem now. I think we’re too far in the midst of the mess," Al-Hammami said.
America’s shipping problem is that there isn’t just one.
There are many layers to the issue, not just with just the struggle of manufacturing in China, but when ships reach American ports there aren’t enough truck drivers to take the products to where they need to go.
President Biden has ordered the ports to increase capacity and the hours of operation to solve the problem.
“I think what we are facing now is unprecedented," said UCLA Professor Christopher Tang.
Tang is hopeful wait times will be back to normal once the holiday shopping season is over.
“For the short term, I think that we can work it out until I think things will become much smoother after the holiday season when the demand is back to normal, because we cannot keep stocking up forever," Tang said.
“If you know what your children want, you need to buy it now," Al-Hammami said.
For as difficult as being in the toy business in the pandemic has been, the number of holiday shoppers already coming into Al-Hammami's store is showing the importance of a personal touch in finding the perfect gift.
“In today’s world where Amazon is the number one place to go to, it tells you there is still a purpose for in-store shopping," Al-Hammami said.