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Return to Retail: Part Three – The New Normal

This holiday season, retailers are committed to serving the customer, despite inventory hardships.

By Angela Niessner

The holiday season is upon us and one way or another we will have our holidays, complete with the exchanging of gifts between family and friends. We will celebrate and find joy in the season this year as we always do. Regardless of any outside interference from our federal or local government or the ever-changing recommendations from health agencies, or even the uncertainty of the weather for that matter, we will shop for and give gifts this season. The events related to COVID-19 have altered our daily lives over the past year and a half, to be sure. It has been and for many of us, still is hard to know what to expect next. For months now, voices in the media have spoken the phrase “The New Normal” when referring to the future. It has become a familiar phrase. When asked what that phrase actually means, no one seems to know just yet. What it means to the business owners in our community, however, is simply this – The New Normal is doing whatever it takes to serve the customer every single day. Period. They know that life goes on and the public will continue to engage in all of the normal activities to exercise their God given right to life and the pursuit of happiness. There will be constant adjustments, some small, and others quite large, to make this work. Challenges and opportunities will continue to present themselves to retailers and restaurant owners during the coming months and they will strive to meet each one as they come. 

Our local economy continues to recover from the effects of COVID-19 as we near the end of 2021. Look around and you will notice the stores are decorated with Thanksgiving and Christmas swag and new merchandise is appearing on the shelves. Some of the businesses in our area are scrambling to hire seasonal employees in expectation of a busy holiday shopping season. This year there have been concerns raised about supply chains being slower than normal and even that there could be a scarcity issue for particularly popular products. The result is people have started their shopping early to be sure they don’t miss out on getting the perfect gift. Get out there and get that special gift before it’s gone! 

Even if you are shopping online, it pays to start early this year. The words “Sold Out” will likely be appearing on your computer screen sooner than you think. Do your shopping early. Go now. Don’t wait till next week or the week before Christmas or even Black Friday. The calendar may tell you there is still time, but the store owners tell us that inventory is going to be hard to guarantee in the weeks leading up to December 25th. And this applies to everything in every area of retail. The things we take for granted that have been available forever are now becoming harder to find. If you don’t believe me, just ask your local store owners and they will tell you the same thing. They will also tell you that you are not alone in your frustration when you discover that the thing you want is unavailable. They have suppliers and manufacturers from whom they order products already telling them that these things are on backorder. How long will it be till they can fill the orders and when will the shipments arrive at the store? The answer is often, “we don’t know exactly”.

For some retailers, who carry products made in the continental United States which are more easily obtained, the inventory will be more plentiful. But even for them, there can still be trickle down effects of supply chain delays when parts of a domestically manufactured product are imported from outside the country. Buy local whenever you can and support your local business community as much as possible because they are the ones who will be there for you when imports are not getting through. If there is one thing that the past several months has taught us it is that we must do our best to support our local businesses. We are learning a very important lesson about the power of community support and the need to patronize local businesses. What you buy and where you buy it matters more than ever. The act of coming together and spreading our resources among our own community members is so vital to preserving our local economy.

So, go out to one of our area stores and buy those holiday decorations and those presents for the kids. Buy a new outfit to wear to the holiday party and something for your Secret Santa while you’re at it. Then take your sweetheart out to a nice dinner in town and order dessert. You’ll be glad you did.  It’s fun and such an easy way to do something good for our hometown and the hard working people that make it such a great place to live.