Metro Detroit small businesses prep for holiday season amid supply chain issues, shortages

Posted at 6:52 AM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 06:52:42-05

(WXYZ) — All this week, we are preparing you for what is expected to be a holiday shopping season we haven't seen before.

Inflation is now impacting the pocketbooks of all Americans, and consumer prices jumped more than 6% in October, the steepest rise in more than 30 years.

There's also the supply chain chaos, leaving items in short supply. In October alone, online shoppers encountered more than 2 billion out-of-stock messages, roughly double the same as last year, and many small businesses are losing out.

Some independent small businesses are dealing with the shortages as best as they can.

At Modern Baby, strollers, winter boots and dollhouses are some of the most popular items. Because of the global supply chain issues, the items are pretty hard to keep in stock.

John and Emily Murray said good business is all about that personal touch. So when they had to shut their doors for six months during the pandemic and lay off all their employees, they leaned on their loyal customers to bounce back.

"They were worried that their baby store was going to close and they wanted to make sure that it didn't happen," Emily said.

"We live in a really special community," John added.

Lately, sales at Modern Baby both online and in-store are through the roof.

In a monthly survey by the Michigan Retail Association, 51% of retailers reported increased sales between August and September. Looking ahead, 49% of survey respondents predicted that momentum would continue through December.

"We are seeing consumer behavior has evolved and changed and it's still settled in, and we are still waiting on all these products to come from Asia as an example and the demand hasn't let up," Professor Kevin Ketels said.

Experts say the ports are struggling to move ships in and out, but a trucking shortage means they aren't getting where they need to go.

The Murray's have maxed out all of their credit cards trying to order early and in bulk.

"It's good because now I am trying to order things, and we have two dollhouses in stock, so when those are gone, they're gone for the year and that's just how it is right now," Emily said.

It's leaving them with a lot of boxes to unpack.

"We had so many boxes that nobody could actually go into the store, so we had to make like a pathway to get in," John said.

Even though Modern Baby gets most of their supply from U.S.-based, boutique-type vendors, they're still competing against corporate companies.

"Big box stores are starting to go after our type of products," John said.

Small businesses like theirs knew they couldn't compete during the holiday season, which is why they chose to roll the dice.

"It's a bigger risk. Like all of a sudden when you buy that many strollers or car seats or toys, what if people don't buy it? sSo financially we are risking a lot more than we have in the past," John said.

It hurts them to keep customers waiting, especially when some have newborns in need of a stroller.