WHEELING – Including today, there are 55 days until Christmas. It may sound like a lot, but business interests in the region say the same supply chain and personnel issues may have already been noticed by buyers in the Wheeling area as shipping delays for purchases online also occur at local brick and mortar stores.
Spokesmen for the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Valley Mall and two small businesses in the Highlands and Center Market report a cohesive chorus. Some retailers are running out of stock. Almost all of them are short of workers – which means shopping hours will be shorter this year and the competition for those who remain is so high that some stores are paying as much as $ 16 an hour at the height of the season.
Add in an overall inflation rate of over 5% from Christmas 2020 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics) and it may seem like a blue Christmas is inevitable. But, that is not necessarily the case, say the same local sources.
Some businesses in the area are stocked to the point of having enough to sell to other retailers. The Doorbusters are imminent. And, local retailers are also hoping to see a 7% growth in holiday sales from 2020, which is expected nationwide (Bain & Company, Deloitte and Mastercard).
FULL SHELVES, FULL CARTS
“There are a lot of savvy retailers out there who have worked really hard to make sure they have merchandise to put on the shelves and on the shelves,” said Joe Bell, spokesperson for Cafaro Company, a Youngstown entity. , Ohio which owns the Ohio Valley Mall. in St. Clairsville.
Cafaro said the supply chain issues plaguing online retailers can ironically increase sales for local stores that have prepared sensibly and early enough to be fully stocked for the season.
“If you have the merchandise on hand… you won’t have any nasty surprises,” Bell said of customers who might be concerned about a late delivery of a gift. “If you see it in the store, you know it might be in your shopping cart.”
Ultimately. While the stock could technically be there at many stores in the area, Bell said the personnel needed to put it in that bag are less certain.
Anticipating fewer workers on the floor than a normal holiday season requires, he said the mall’s hours of operation would be reduced by one to two hours a day throughout the holiday season compared to until 2020. None of their stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday is limited from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
And, during any of those hours, customers can find themselves lining up, he noted of a likely need for patience on the part of buyers.
On the business side, he said, there will certainly be an ongoing challenge. “We have spoken to a lot of retailers and they are crossing their fingers and hoping like crazy that they will have the staff to cover the shifts.”
Some more than hope.
Bell noted that an unnamed retailer that operates locally began by offering $ 13 to $ 14 an hour for paid time off in order to recruit staff. The same entity became so worried that it would not be enough to keep the staff, he said, she now pays $ 15 to $ 16 an hour until the end of the season. Bell added that overall, retailers in the area appear to have increased their vacation wages by at least $ 2 an hour.
Scott Reager, chief of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, said the same was happening there.
“Staffing is the # 1 concern I hear from my businesses,” Reager said, noting that the top pay for vacation retail work at this location appears to be around $ 13. at $ 14 an hour now.
He said the understaffing was affecting all kinds of businesses in Marshall County – from restaurants to mega-retailers like Walmart to community banks, who told him they were struggling to find enough. cashiers.
It’s gotten to the point that Reager advises business entities to actively recruit – in an unusual way if necessary. At job fairs organized by the Chamber, for example, he recommends recruiters keep an eye out for other recruiters who work at tables near them as well as people who are more obviously there to find employment.
“The right people are wanted,” he said of the need to pounce if a person is demonstrating competence. Indeed, the state announced in September an unemployment rate of 3.2%. While this rate has not been seasonally adjusted and only measures residents who are actively looking for work, it is the lowest in state history.
Like the Mall’s Bell, Reager said businesses in Marshall County adjust hours as needed to stay both open and profitable. Restaurants, for example, are cutting back on ordinary days and hours, but seem determined to hold holiday banquets, he said. He noticed on a recent trip to Charleston that some retailers are now only open from noon to 6 p.m. – a trend that could spill north if the need arises.
“They use a shift to cover (all day),” Reager said.
The supply chain conundrum is also felt in Marshall County, Reager said, but added the problem was uneven. He said some retailers who use domestic suppliers seem good enough to sell their overstock to other retailers. Stores that rely on international contracts are suffering, on the other hand, already, he added.
Shuggy McCord of Shuggy’s Antiques and Jewelry at Wheeling’s Center Market can’t help but laugh a little.
McCord said she has spent the past 30 years looking for stocks. In mid-October, she had just completed a trip to New England for this purpose. Such trips sometimes involve hours of research in old barns rather than checking orders still stored in shipping containers at west coast ports, she noted of the reality of vintage resale. compared to retail.
“We literally have to go hunting for all of this. We don’t have the luxury of calling someone to order something, ”McCord said. “I still have to go look.
So, she said she was ready for the season – filled with vintage seasonal favorites such as Shiny Brite glass ornaments, light blow molded displays for outdoor decorating, and ‘popcorn’ ornaments formed from it. pieces of melted plastic. “We have beautiful jewelry,” she added.
Tony Tran, owner of Tony’s Spa in the Highlands, said he was also ready if the gifts opted for experiences such as manicures or facials if the actual merchandise was hard to find. And, he does not expect to run out of the raw materials of his trade. He got his supplies.
“I have stuff to use for the whole year,” Tran said.