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Recap: Managing an International Shipping Crisis- the Hallmark Perspective

Tuesday, March 01, 2022 2:29 PM | Mary Odom (Administrator)

On February 25th, Kristi Gribble presented the Hallmark Cards experience with the recent international shipping crisis. Kristi Gribble is the Global Supply Chain Operations Director at Hallmark Cards where she has worked for the past 28 years.


“The last two years feels like twenty years!”



Ms. Gribble was dealing with tariffs in 2019 and cheering on the Chiefs at the Super Bowl in Miami in February of 2020. Upon returning from the crowded stadium, she read the headline in the Wall Street Journal “Super Bowl Chiefs Make It Worth the Wait”. The article below the fold reported that China had shut down their country due to the Coronavirus outbreak. After Chinese New Year, many suppliers did not re-open. Hallmark Distribution Centers shut down for about 4 weeks, but were back up and running by May 2020. Sales were still strong because people were sending cards to their loved ones whom they couldn’t see in person.

By the Fall of 2020, transit times had hit 50 days which had previously been 35 days. In May of 2021, COVID cases shut down the port of Shenzhen. Christmas products were not going to arrive to retailers by early fall when retailers start holiday decorating. Hallmark began cross-department planning meetings and dubbed the operation “Saving Christmas”.  Container availability was significantly reduced through the port.  The Saving Christmas SWAT team met daily to prioritize products and containers. Through all their hard work, 98% of product arrived in the DC distribution warehouse in time for Christmas.

Key Takeaways:

  1. 2022 standard container rates are doubling and tripling. Hallmark is trying to lock in current rates now before inflationary rates hit again.
  2. Currently looking at options in Mexico for the long-term and automation options for hand-intensive work as a mid-term strategy.
  3. Work on building “Agility Muscles” to improve flexibility in approaching supply chain issues.
  4. Protect your company from cyber-attacks. One of Hallmark’s expediters was hit with a cyberattack last Sunday, and is now using manual processes until their systems are back up which could be weeks.
  5. Accept that your supply chain team will no longer be the hero of the company. The new normal means that your team is no longer able to save the day by themselves. Create cross-departmental communication patterns that seeks input from all stakeholders.

Finally, Ms. Gribble ended her presentation with some advice for dealing with the mental strain of the pandemic. Stop saying “It can’t get any worse.” We have learned that it can get worse.


Thanks to Beau Jackson of Husch Blackwell Law Firm for arranging the Milburn Country Club for our event!

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