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Small business owners taking on the supply chain crisis

'If you really want it, you should buy it. Because you just don’t know if it’s going to be here'
Patty O'Connell at Gumbo Limbo Coastal Chic in Stuart.
Posted at 4:30 PM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 18:20:26-05

STUART, Fla. — As the holiday shopping season ramps ups, the ongoing supply chain mess is impacting businesses both big and small.

Demand is up, supplies are trickling in and costs are higher.

According to the latest U.S. Census Small Business Pulse Survey, 45% of small business owners say they’re experiencing supply delays.

Inside Gumbo Limbo Coastal Chic in Downtown Stuart, owner Patty O’Connell has stocked her store for the holiday shopping season.

At first glance, you wouldn’t know the impact the global supply chain crisis has had on her small business.

"This is something we’ve never seen before. It’s something that’s been happening over the last 6 months or so. Now it’s gotten to be an issue for sure," she said.

To beat the backup at sea and shipping delays, she placed her orders for holiday items back in January.

Even then, her deliveries didn’t start arriving until the summer.

"This year, we didn't even start to get shipments until July, and then they were trickling. You never knew what was going to come, there was no way to organize it, or to really know until it came across our back door, O’Connell said.

There’s another issue small businesses are facing in the supply chain battle: costs. They’re going up, a lot, and invoices are coming with surprises.

"We've had huge increases in shipping, and now something we've never seen before, the new 'ocean freight charge,'" said O’Connell.

The ocean freight charge is the costs of transporting items by sea.

"We saw emails saying 5 percent more, 10 percent more, and it's just climbing. A small box about this size, maybe about an 8-pound weight, last week we paid $100 in shipping and an additional ocean freight charge of $37."

Dwindling supply and higher costs have also impacted Jim Arbe’s business. He’s owned Learning Express Toys & Gifts in Palm Beach Gardens for more than two decades.

"I've been buying all year, early, taking in product early, and we're still struggling to keep up with the product," said Arbe.

Small businesses have also had to raise their prices on some items to off-set the extra costs.

"It's a little scary to look at what we're charging for product. Just to be even," Arbe said.

Their best advice for consumers?

"We tell them if you really want it, you should buy it. Because you just don’t know if it’s going to be here," said O’Connell.

As supply chain issues continue to complicate the holiday shopping season, small businesses hope the drive to support small will still bring enough business through their doors.

"I really don't like the word new normal, but for right now it certainly is," O’Connell added.

Bloomberg reported supply chain issues in the U.S. have appeared to hit their peak, meaning the worst effects may be over during the remainder of the holiday shopping season.

But, the experts believe the supply chain crisis may not fully resolve until 2022.

A Bankrate survey found 77% of people had shopping issues related to products in October.

Here are their four holiday shopping tips for 2021:

  • Wrap your holiday shopping up early. If you see an item in the store now, buy it.
  • Allow plenty of shipping time to receive your purchases. You can also order online and select curbside or in-store pickup to get items in your hands sooner and avoid order cancellations.
  • Have a plan B for popular items that may be out of stock.
  • Support small businesses. Small Business Saturday falls on November 27. You’ll find items that are unique and beautifully curated.