Lockdowns resulted in a significant drop in retail sales, which was swiftly followed by a rapid rebound as countries reopened their markets. Hundreds of container ships are now awaiting entry to overloaded ports throughout the world, mainly in the United States and China. Furthermore, lorry driver shortages in Europe and the United States make it more difficult to transport containers to their final destinations after they arrive on land. The traffic bottleneck has been compounded by port closures prompted by Covid-19 breakouts.

Containers that have been left sitting on quaysides for months have become commonplace. Furthermore, container prices have skyrocketed. According to George Griffiths, editor of global container markets at S&P Global Platts, sending a 40ft container from Asia to Europe costs $17,500 (£12,650), which is more than ten times the cost a year ago. He goes on to say that certain shipping companies are already charging premium prices to assure delivery within a few weeks and that importers are attempting to outbid one another by giving more money to get containers ahead of their competitors.

In response to shortages, some large corporations have recently started to acquire their own containers and charter ships. Walmart and Home Depot, both based in the United States, as well as Ikea, a Swedish furnishing company, are among them. Ikea has confirmed that it has purchased additional containers and chartered ships to address an inventory shortage.