As many of the country’s major retailers wait for boxes of merchandise to finally arrive, Elysian Fields in Sarasota is sitting pretty.
The gift shop and metaphysical store, in Midtown Plaza at U.S. 41 and Bahia Vista Street, has plenty of clothing, crystals and home decor items for sale in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Owner Tony Gillette said he ordered jewelry designed in the U.S. and crafted in places like Bali and Mexico several months ago. They’re in luck because they’re not using the same vendors as the big-box retailers like Walmart and Target, he said.
For some other items, like chimes made overseas, Gillette said he’s had to think outside of the box. The store’s usual supplier is a bit behind – he still hasn’t received product he ordered in the spring. But overall, everything ordered has come in just fine.
“You have to be a little more creative in where you get things from, but so far, outside of a couple of things, we’ve been able to get what we need,” Gillette said.
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Retailers in Sarasota-Bradenton and across the U.S. are expecting busy sales this holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation predicts that total spending will hit between $843.4 billion and $859 billion, an all-time record.
At the same time, retailers are struggling to get merchandise on the shelves. Factory shutdowns because of COVID-19, plus labor issues, have made it difficult for many retailers to get the product they need in time.
To prepare, many of the big box stores in the U.S. are making major investments in their supply chains. Target said on its website that it ordered items in larger up-front quantities and even chartered its own container ship to bring merchandise from international ports to the U.S.
“Retailers are making significant investments in their supply chains and spending heavily to ensure they have products on their shelves to meet this time of exceptional consumer demand,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said.
The effects of the global supply chain problems can be seen at retail stores in Sarasota-Manatee. At grocery stores and major retailers like Target, aisles of empty shelves have become a common sight.
Consumers are aware of the supply chain problems, and they’re preparing. According to the annual holiday survey from consulting firm Deloitte, 75% of consumers are concerned about items being out of stock, and for that reason, 68% of them plan to begin Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving.
But that intense demand to buy things isn’t applicable across the board. Deloitte’s survey found that the majority of the expected increase in holiday sales is coming from high-income households. Of those who plan to skip holiday shopping altogether, 65% are from lower-income households, according to Deloitte.
Gillette said a lot of his vendors have either increased their prices, or told him they plan to.
“Pricing is going up, and vendors are raising prices pretty consistently across the board,” he said.
It’s not just retail merchandise that’s going up, either. Gas prices reached $3.18 per gallon in September, almost $1 more than the same month in 2020. The consumer price index was also up 0.4% in September.
As the prices of everyday goods continue to increase, there will eventually be less spending, which means manufacturers will have more time to catch up.
Prices going up have also been an issue for Karen Tyree, owner of Ivy’s on Dearborn in Englewood. She tries to keep her prices on par with the rest of Englewood, but it’s hard when suppliers increase their prices.
So far, the store has been very busy for the holidays, Tyree said. They got a big rush in October, when local galas started up again and people needed things to wear, she said. The store doesn’t have the normal amount of stock, she said, but there’s still plenty to buy.
But like so many other local business owners, Tyree has another big problem – labor.
“It’s been awful,” she said. “I’m trying to find somebody with at least retail experience, or somebody thats into fashion. Trying to find people that want to work is not easy.”
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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Retailers in Sarasota-Manatee prepare for holiday shopping