LIMA — This could be a make-or-break holiday season for small business retailers.
Many had to shut down during the pandemic and those that did reopen are faced with a shortage of employees and potential problems in getting products to sell due to a global supply chain shortage.
“The retail market changed a lot when people had to stay home and were maybe ordering more things online,” said Jon Husted, Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor. “I think it’s a good reminder that you want good robust competition in retail and you want those stores to be available in your own community and so that’s why we’ve got to go shop there and eat lunch there or go to dinner there and make sure that we’re supporting our local businesses because local businesses turn all that money around back in your own community. When you’re buying local all of it gets circulated in your community and that’s why small businesses are so important.”
Many retailers have started pushing holiday sales early.
This Friday is Black Friday and Saturday is Small Business Saturday but many local stores have already been working on getting you in their doors.
At Jean and Lily’s fashion boutique at 220 N. Main St. in downtown Lima, owner Linda Hampshire held her first holiday open house this past weekend. She has another one planned from Nov. 23 through the 27th.
Hampshire did what she could to get stocked up with merchandise.
“We plan a year in advance for our merchandise. Right now we’re ordering things for spring of 2022 so with fashion things are almost a year in advance. Right now we’re not having a lot of trouble getting merchandise,” Hampshire said.
When the pandemic hit, it forced them to shut down for a while.
“We closed for three months. It took a while for people to feel comfortable coming back,” Hampshire said.
With the closure of Macy’s in the Lima Mall, Hampshire saw it as an opportunity for their business.
“We have lots of merchandise here for everybody — all different sizes, extra small, we have 3x’s since Macy’s is closed now. We are carrying to largest sizes because we want people to feel like they have a place where they can shop here in Lima and they won’t have to go out of town,” Hampshire said.
Downtown retailers in Wapakoneta started their sales even earlier.
“It’s an annual event to have the holiday open houses among our retailers in Wapakoneta on the first weekend in November,” said Jackie Martell, executive director of the Wapakoneta Area Chamber of Commerce.
Lynn Skaggs is the new owner of Casa Chic at 109 W. Auglaize St. in Wapakoneta. She and her husband purchased it more than two months ago and saw the potential for great things.
“We’re very fortunate. We’re one of nearly 30 vendors here at Casa Chic and so we share the load. It’s a lot of preparation. It’s a lot of late nights, a lot of early mornings but it’s also a lot of fun so we don’t mind doing it,” Skaggs said.
Casa Chic doesn’t have the same kind of problems other retailers might have.
“I think that we’re a little bit different because we’re not a whole lot of wholesale. We are a lot of handcrafted goods so it’s a little different for us. There’s an artistry to it and a lot of planning ahead. So we plan ahead regardless of what shipments are coming or aren’t coming. We have the merchandise in stock already. So it’s not like purchasing online and then you wait and wonder whether or not it’ll come. It’s here and you can take it with you,” Skaggs said.
Julie Stratton owns Black Lab Trading Company at 121 N. Main St. in Bluffton and says the community has continued to support her business.
“I can say 2020 was a good year for us. A lot of people decided to shop in smaller stores I think because of COVID and safety reasons. We are stocking up heavily on our inventory right now, anticipating that people will not be able to get things online, either because of supply shortages or delivery problems. I’m anticipating that small business — brick and mortar stores will have things that customers need and want and will do very well if we can get our supplies in, which I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been ordering very heavy this summer because one of our reps was telling us this was coming and it’s probably going to go into 2022 as well,” Stratton said.
Small businesses in this area are dealing with the same issues as others are across the country.
“They’ve got a couple of issues,” said John Navin, Dean of the James F. Dicke College of Business at Ohio Northern University. “One is, they’ve got to order early. We know that lead times for product going from manufacturer to distributor are much larger than we thought they were going to be — that’s part of the supply chain issue. the other is just, they’re going to really struggle because of the lack of inventory, just in terms of being able to get any product that they’re going to be able to sell. Inventory is going to run low.”
Small business owners needed to be proactive this year, more than any year before.
“We just don’t have the luxury now of somebody calls you the Thursday before the holiday and says I need to get 200 bags of Hershey Kisses and you expect them to be there in a few days — it’s just not going to happen. It’s November. If they haven’t started planning now, it’s probably a little late,” Navin said.
There’s much riding on the success of this year’s holiday sales season.
“Every holiday season for any small business is crucial. There’s a reason they call it Black Friday but I mean especially now because the environment last year was so awkward in terms of people really trying to figure out what the retail environment was. I think a lot of the push to get people to stay and shop local is going to be very important this holiday season. Obviously, it’s financially important but even more so just to re-establish themselves as a place to go in the community,” Navin said.
Staffing problems could affect your shopping experience
“I think we have a lot of challenges for this year,” said Kelly Thiesen, administrative assistant for the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce. “I think probably staffing is a big issue right now that many of them are facing. I think they’re kind of having to even offer different ways of working, whether it be more flexibility and hours or even work from home type settings. That seems to be a big concern in our area is getting staff into stores.”
The Ottawa chamber is trying to get more people to check out the small business retailers in the area.
“We have 24 local businesses that are participating in what is called our passport promotion and so the passports can be picked up at any of the participating businesses that are listed and shoppers can go around to these businesses and when they make a purchase at that particular business, they get a stamp in their passport and get entered into a drawing for a $200 gift card,” Thiesen said.
The passport promotion will run through Small Business Saturday, which is November 27.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.