The days after Thanksgiving are generally recognized as the start of the holiday shopping season, but supply chain issues might affect gift shopping in Michiana.
South Bend Regional Chamber President and CEO Jeff Rea said nearly every industry is having trouble getting the materials and equipment to manufacture different products, then getting finished products where they need to go.
“There are very few, if any, industries that aren’t being affected,” he said. “Even restaurants, in terms of getting either equipment or, in some cases, the food are interrupted by it.”
Rea said that shortage is both good and bad – while it interrupts operations, he said it also forces companies to think about where and how they source their goods.
“So we hope they’re thinking a little bit more about looking local,” Rea said. “I think some are looking at it as an opportunity to maybe open up some opportunities to do business with companies who have been doing business somewhere else.”
He said many companies are also facing a labor shortage, meaning they have to pay more to attract new workers or to retain the ones they have.
All of those issues combined could mean higher prices and longer wait times for holiday gifts. But, Rea said it could also mean a boost for the local economy.
“It’s got local folks excited because, ‘Will somebody walk down the street, come into my store [and] grab something, rather than go online and hope that it comes in time?’” Rea said. “If there’s any good to come out of the crisis, people have rediscovered brick-and-mortar retail in this holiday season because of concerns about supply chain.”
Rea said local shops and boutiques are facing some of the same challenges as national chains, especially labor shortages. He said all retailers are also concerned about whether shipping delays will cause people to spend less this year.
“You know, do I need to track down that sweater to send to grandma who already has 100 sweaters?” Rea said. “Or would this be a year to not?”
Even so, he said local businesses are hoping for a “banner year” for brick-and-mortar stores.
“They can actually put their hands on it and stay at home and put it in a box and put it under the tree and not have to wonder if it’s going to be here on time,” he said.
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