Devon Burnley was determined to have enough shoes for Christmas.
A year after shipping delays and shortages took their toll on her efforts to keep goods in stock at Deerskin Leather, a clothing, handbag and shoe store in Kitchen Kettle Village, Burnley was not going not end up with empty shelves this holiday season.
After some manufacturers abandoned the store because it could not place large enough orders, Burnley lined up new suppliers, placed orders earlier than ever and doubled the size of its shipment of UGG boots, maximizing space in the basement storage area under the Reports store.
“Our maintenance people were yelling at us because they were like, ‘You can’t cover the fire escape,'” said Burnley, owner and operator of Burnley Enterprises, which owns Deerskin Leather and five others. shops in Kitchen Kettle. “It’s something we did to be proactive about supply chain issues. But it worked…we have a much stronger year because we have inventory here that we might not have had.
Fear of scarcity is driving a holiday shopping season like no other. Conditioned by pandemic supply chain issues to expect too little on the shelves, shoppers – largely unaffected by inflation – have started browsing and buying sooner than ever.
They are encountering retailers with overflowing inventory as stores determined not to miss another critical season have placed large orders but have found supply and shipping issues have diminished. The end result could be late or post-season sales as stores attempt to eliminate excess inventory.
“I think we’re in a really good position,” said Michelle Rondinelli, co-owner and president of Kitchen Kettle Foods, which has 11 stores in Kitchen Kettle, including Jam & Relish Kitchen. “We are very comfortable where we are, and I think we will certainly do very well over the next two months.”
The National Retail Federation expects holiday spending in November and December to rise 6% to 8% from a year ago, hitting an all-time high of between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion.
“As consumers feel the pressure of inflation and rising prices…consumers remain resilient and continue to engage in commerce,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “In the face of these challenges, many households will supplement their spending with savings and credit to provide a cushion and result in a positive holiday season.”
The upper end of the sales growth projected by the National Retail Federation is equivalent to the annual price increase of 8.2% measured by the consumer price index.
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But according to the industry group, sales will rise this year as the personal consumption expenditure price index – a measure of inflation more focused on retail goods – rose 6.2% on an annual basis.
However, they are measured, higher prices were on the minds of some Lancaster County shoppers the week before Halloween.
“Things were much cheaper before; but since COVID happened the prices have gone up,” said Sheila Cancel, 50, of Lancaster, who recently shopped at Park City Center. “Now I have to decide whether I want to decorate or not, organize a party or not. It’s difficult. I wait for the stores to announce the special offers.
Another Park City customer, Angela Torres, 47, from Lancaster, said she had hoped there would be more sales.
“So far this year, it seems like there’s been less sales, especially on things you can buy for kids,” Torres said. “They wait until the last minute to give us the sales. We’re trying to get back on our feet, but the economy is making it harder, especially if you have more than one child to buy.
While inflation could dampen spending, the National Retail Federation says a strong job market gives consumers the ability — and the confidence — to spend.
“It’s the strength of the labor market that’s really fueling spending, even as we have inflation,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said on a media call to discuss the projections. vacation. “On average, households follow inflation to some extent.”
That labor market strength is evident in Lancaster County, where the unemployment rate was 3.3% in September, the third lowest in the state.
Local consumer sentiment was also high heading into the holiday shopping season, according to the consumer survey conducted in September by the County Economic Development Corporation’s Lancaster County Regional Analysis Center. Lancaster.
The local survey, which draws on a national survey conducted by the University of Michigan, found the strength of the labor market among the factors causing a sharp rise from the summer.
Christmas is coming early
With retailers focusing on making more items available, shoppers ready to spend should find more of what they’re looking for in stores this year.
“We filled up earlier and more because of the problems we have had in recent years. We will have Black Friday and Small Business Saturday deals on clothing,” said Laura Haiges, owner of Bella Boo, a children’s toy store in downtown Lancaster. “This year we are fully stocked for the first purchases.”
At Tanger Outlets, many retailers have extra holiday inventory hidden in storage pods, said marketing manager Monica Trego.
“I feel like this year we’re going to see quite a big rush,” said Leighana Gonzalez, Crocs store manager in Tangier. “We receive a lot of customers and the weekends are remarkably busy. It’s our first year, and we don’t know what to expect for the holiday season, but we have a good inventory and are extremely excited about it.
In addition to ensuring customers see full shelves, retailers are preparing for the holidays by decorating for Christmas earlier than ever.
Holiday Shopping Events Planned in Lancaster County
Tanger Outlets along Route 30 in East Lampeter Township was fully decorated for the holiday on November 4 when its Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt began. The center’s holiday craft market took place on November 12, while the tree lighting ceremony is scheduled for Saturday.
At Kitchen Kettle, a few Christmas-themed gift tables popped up in early November, a week before the center’s traditional start for the holiday season.
“Some of the people visiting now won’t be back until Christmas. You know, it’s their trip to Lancaster, and we won’t see them again,” Rondinelli said.
Early preparations for Christmas are appropriate this year as many customers have been looking to wrap up their purchases as early as possible.
“After two years of dealing with holiday issues such as out of stock and extended delivery times, shoppers are taking no chances,” according to the Deloitte Holiday Retail Survey 2022, which found that 38% of shoppers plan to start earlier this year.
A quarter of the average shoppers’ vacation budget of $1,455 was spent by the end of October, according to the survey.
Smooth the supply chain
Nearly three years after the empty store shelves that marked the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the major global supply chain disruptions have eased, leaving stores better prepared for their busy season.
“Consumer perceptions of supply chain impacts do not reflect retailers’ expectations of full inventory and on-time deliveries,” according to the Deloitte survey, which found that 100% of retail leaders in retail respondents expect to receive holiday inventory on time this year, up from 57% last year.
For Hush Money Bikes, the end of summer finally brought a release from the chronic shortages in the bike industry that had previously kept customers waiting months for new bikes. The change came in time for the Lancaster City Bike Shop to be fully stocked ahead of the holiday season.
“For the first time since the start of the pandemic, manufacturers’ representatives were calling us and trying to unload the bikes instead of us trying to get on the bike waiting list,” said Ted Houser, co-owner of the bike shop at 237 N. Prince St.
Houser said the glut became more pronounced because retailers opted to take fewer bikes they had ordered in a panic when the bikes were hard to come by.
Houser said his store has been able to be more selective about the types of bikes it carries while offering customers the option to select a different color for a favorite in-stock bike. Previously, such special orders could take months to arrive, but they can be in the store within a week, Houser said.
Hush Money Bikes’ sale this holiday season is a “walking sale” ahead of its move to the former Huber’s West End Market building at 501 W. Lemon St., but Houser said well-stocked shelves are a recipe for discounts.
“You will see bike shops making sales that haven’t had to make sales for two years because (the bikes) are there. They’re deep in inventory and those bills are coming due. So I think overall you’re going to see sales in the bike industry,” House said.
Still, he said, some still tight corners of the supply chain continue to impact what’s sold, noting that replacement bike seats have been hard to come by as they use very foam. demanded in the furniture and automotive industries.
At Kitchen Kettle Village, Rondinelli said a predicted shortage of turkeys for Thanksgiving prompted her to remove a turkey sandwich from the menu at the Harvest Cafe so that more turkey would be available for sale at grocery stores.
Still, Rondinelli said, it’s a more manageable shortage than last year’s shortage of 1.5-ounce glass jars, which severely limited the sale of six-pack jams and jellies, a popular gift. . To guard against such problems this year, Rondinelli said he filled up small glass jars early and abundantly.
“We weren’t going to have that happen again,” she said. “We want it in our warehouse, not someone else’s.”
Writer Enelly Betancourt contributed to this report.