By Mary Heinrich
As the ongoing pandemic and economic challenges continue to cause breakdowns in the supply chain, small business owners in the Shinnston area say they too have struggled.
According to Shannon Kellar, owner of B3 Boutique, suppliers have begun to require pre-orders. With her suppliers not sure when they will be able to receive their inventory from businesses overseas, some require pre-orders months in advance.
This proves to be difficult for her family-owned business because it often causes her to have several weeks’ worth of merchandise that is delivered and must be paid for, all at one time.
As Kellar stated, “I count on my week-to-week sales to pay for new inventory.”
The other area that B3 is finding a struggle is with the timing of merchandise delivery. As a clothing boutique, B3 can only sell certain items during the correct season. Kellar related a time that she ordered shorts in February to be sold over the summer, but, because of supply chain issues, these shorts were not delivered until September. This delay made the pieces basically unable to be sold.
It is also a challenge for the boutique to store all of the merchandise coming in as a bulk delivery.
Another small business in the Shinnston area struggling with their own supply chain problems is Management Systems and Consultants, owned and operated by Doug Moore and family. Management Systems deals in sportswear and outdoor gear.
Moore shared that he has struggled to keep the items he generally receives from businesses overseas in stock. Many of these overseas businesses are being forced to shut down due to illness among their employees or because of governmental mandates, he said. This has made it difficult for Moore’s business to provide all of the equipment to his constituents.
Moore also explained how a problem in one area of the world can cause a widespread disturbance. He sells a headlamp used for climbing. There is a small plastic piece on the lamp which is manufactured in China. The company in Europe which manufactures the lamp is unable to get the plastic piece from China, and, therefore, Moore is unable to purchase enough of the lamps to meet the demands of his store.
China is attempting a “zero-COVID” strategy, with strict quarantine rules and travel restrictions.
Moore also said that he has also had trouble getting merchandise delivered in a timely manner, often waiting weeks longer than the originally assigned delivery date.
One aspect of the supply chain which is plaguing larger businesses is a lack of employees. Neither Moore nor Kellar has expressed any struggle in this area. Both attribute their strength in this category to being family-owned and operated businesses.
According to ABC News, the reasons for this supply chain slump are multi-faceted. Businesses are struggling to keep up with demand after being required to slow, and, in some cases, stop production of goods during the early portion of the pandemic. Companies are also finding themselves with a mass exodus of employees from those lower-paying, labor-intensive jobs which are necessary to keep the supply chain moving. The country is also struggling with a shortfall of truck drivers. In 2018, pre-pandemic forecasts were calling for a deficit of around 60,000 truck drivers. With the addition of the pandemic struggles, the lack of drivers is over 80,000.
As we go through our daily lives, we need to keep in mind that our local business owners are working hard to overcome this impediment, which is out of their control.