Unintentional empty shelves are a retailer's worst nightmare—and one that's inching closer to reality with every passing hour.
As the clock ticks toward midnight Monday, anxiety among retailers, manufacturers, farmers and others continues to grow. That's when the contract between shipping companies and unionized West Coast port workers is set to expire.
Failure to come to an agreement could bring repercussions that affect 30 ports from San Diego to Seattle, countless businesses, consumers—and ultimately, the country's economic growth.
"If there's a strike or a walkout that lasts for five days, it would be approximately a $2 billion per day loss to the economy. If it goes on longer than that, it could be as high as $2.5 billion a day," said Matthew Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation.
"About 12.5 percent of the nation's GDP comes through the ports along the West Coast, so 45 percent of the container traffic either comes into or out of those ports. [A strike] would be very significant for the economy," he said.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) sits on one side of the bargaining table, representing 13,600 West Coast port workers. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) is on the other side, representing workers who operate port terminals and shipping lines.