This is going to be a bad holiday season for procrastinators.
Because of supply shortages and shipping delays, many local stores have a finite amount of goods that they will not be able to restock before Christmas or New Years. Many of them have found tricks to navigate these hurdles, but even those methods aren’t guaranteed to last until the end of the shopping season.
“It’s important for people to start shopping today,” the owner of Grand Slam Toys & Games Beth Koehler said. “Because of shipping delays, if they see something on the shelves that later runs out, we’re not getting any more of it.”
Koehler estimates that she cannot replace 95% of the things she sells before the end of the year after they sell out. She is not alone. Norman’s Fine Gifts, The Islander Bookshop, Big Ray’s and 58 Degrees North are some of the many other stores suffering from supply chain problems.
Kelley Bennet, owner of Norman’s Fine Gifts, and Melissa Haffeman, owner of The Islander Bookshop, both had shipments of Christmas ornaments canceled on them.
In Bennett’s case, the ship with her ornaments was one of the many left waiting in water on the West Coast, she said.
The things that are coming through are arriving inconsistently, Haffeman said. Her shipments have been up in the air — sometimes a company will tell her upfront that they cannot deliver goods, but sometimes it will take two to three weeks for a business to let her know that her order cannot go through, she said. In total, two-thirds of her Christmas orders were canceled because of supply shortages, she said. She stopped ordering Christmas goods at the start of November.
The only exception for Haffeman is books, she said. Even though there are predictions of book shortages all the way through 2023, there have not been any problems stocking The Islander’s shelves or fulfilling special orders, she said. Still, she’s decided to stop taking specialty book orders on Nov. 28, which is an earlier cut off than last year, to increase the likelihood of Christmas gifts arriving in time, she said.
Some sectors are being hit harder than others.
“It’s not just worldwide, it is almost industry-specific in some ways,” said Jeremiah Gardner, owner of 58 Degrees North. “A lot of what I see having the biggest delays is anything related to outdoors, whether it’s a motorcycle, or RVs or kayaks, to outboard motors for big boats, fishing reels. It’s gone.”
A kayak he ordered in April did not arrive until late July, he said. Part of the problem is that the small parts that are crucial to outdoor gear are selling out quickly, according to Gardner. In terms of kayaks, he knows companies that can get 80% of the boat done, but are being held up by an inability to get rotar mechanisms, he said. Gardner suspects that he won’t be selling kayaks anytime soon.
Big Ray’s has had trouble with shipping delays as well. The store could not get more spinning reels until after the end of silver salmon fishing season, according to Brett Olsen, a salesman at the store. Right now, they have a waiting list for ammo because of a nationwide shortage, he said. The delays are costing the store a lot of money, he said.
While difficult to navigate, the supply shortages and shipping delays are not a surprise to business owners. As a result, they have been able to prepare. Koehler started stocking up for the holiday season in March after “reading the writing on the wall,” she said. Haffeman ordered as many Christmas goods as she could, with the understanding that many of them would not make it on island.
Companies have also been adapting as problems come up at the moment. Going into the holiday season, Koehler bought products she had never sold before to replace the ones Grand Slam can no longer get a hold of. Bennett reached into the back of her inventory to pull out cards and linens from last year’s holiday season. Haffeman started pop-up markets in front of her store on Saturday to replace the local bazaars, many of which had been canceled.
“(The pop-ups) are like the experience that folks in the community would have at the bazaars,” Haffeman said. “I have had great collaborations with local artists in town. It’s a really supportive community.”
Bennett and Haffeman integrated more local goods, Alaskan-based vendors, and independent artisans into their stores as another response to supply shortages. At Norman’s, much of the pottery and jewelry is made from either local artists, or artists from Alaska, Bennett said. All of the T-shirts and clothes that she is selling were made by Bases Loaded, the store next door to hers. Haffeman sells a wide variety of local goods, including greeting cards, handbags, scented candles, coffee, tea and even essential oils.
Some companies don’t have many options when it comes to selling local products. For example, there aren’t any ammo manufacturers on the island, but there are a lot of hunters. Like Norman’s, a lot of the goods that would be sold at Big Ray’s are waiting in the water on shipping boats that have no place to dock, according to Olson. But instead of being patient, many people have been purchasing things online, which has hurt the company, according to MelaNie Hurst, a saleswoman at Big Ray’s.
“People need to buck up those couple extra bucks and buy local,” Hurst said.
Ordering things online from other countries might be cheaper, but Hurst believes that in the long-run supplies will be more consistently available if people bought domestic products and patronized their local stores.
However, even local vendors can be limited by the shipping delays. The same shipping delays and supply shortages that are troubling small businesses may burden artists as well if they depend on off-island supplies to create their goods, Bennett said. That has not been a problem so far, but things can change very quickly, she said.