Biden reschedules supply chain address after meeting with retail CEOs

Appeared in the Washington Examiner. 

Following a meeting with the CEOs of some of the country’s largest retail chains, President Joe Biden rescheduled supply chain remarks he was due to make Monday afternoon.

Biden was scheduled to speak immediately after the meeting but instead announced he would make the remarks on Wednesday. White House officials said the delay will allow Biden more time to meet with the business leaders, most of whom came to the White House in person to speak with the president ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season.

The president met with CEOs from big retail chains and major manufacturers, including Best Buy, Food Lion, Qurate Retail Group, Etsy, Mattel, Walmart, Samsung, Kroger, and CVS Health.

During the meeting, Biden spoke about the direct issue of getting goods to market and the challenges posed by the newly named omicron variant of COVID-19, as well as the wider effect it may have on the economy. He emphasized the progress since last Thanksgiving, thanks to the widespread availability of vaccines.

“Consumer spending has recovered to where it was headed before the pandemic,” Biden told the business leaders. “Early estimates are that Black Friday sales were up nearly a third since last year, and in-store sales were up by even more than that.”

Supply chain backlogs and high inflation have dogged the Biden administration for months. Supply snags at ports around the country, particularly those at Long Beach and Los Angeles, California, have plagued consumers and driven down their perceptions of the president.

While the delays are not expected to be fully resolved until well into 2022, Biden predicted presents will be under the trees in time for Christmas and in larger numbers than last year.

“We’re hearing similar reports [of increased sales] from Small Business Saturday, I don’t have those numbers yet,” Biden said. “And I’m sure some people watching us online are also doing a little Cyber Monday shopping right now, and that’s why I brought everyone together today.”

Biden has touted ports progress in recent weeks, saying ahead of Thanksgiving that grocery stores and retail outlets are stocked up with everything from bicycles to ice skates .

Nonetheless, real and perceived supply chain woes are dragging down Biden’s approval ratings, which sit near 40% as the holiday season begins. The number was 56% as recently as June. Republicans have now taken the lead in generic ballot polling that gauges which party voters would prefer to be in charge on Capitol Hill.

Confidence in the economy among small business owners has also dropped by 9 points since July , according to the Job Creators Network Foundation Monthly Monitor poll. Business concerns include supply chain woes, looming vaccine mandates for those with more than 100 employees, and the effects of continued inflation driving up prices.

The White House has tried various tactics to help ease supply chain backlogs, encouraging the ports to operate 24 hours a day and threatening fines for containers left clogging up ducts. But the average price to deliver containers still sits at $9,351, according to the Freightos Baltic Index — up from just $1,315 one year ago.

Biden asked CEOs during the meeting what they’re seeing, how prepared they feel to overcome supply chain issues, and how the federal government can help them get goods moving.

His Wednesday address will cover “the economy, supply chains and lowering costs for the American people,” according to the White House.