Area businesses stress importance of early holiday shopping as supply-chain issues persist

Area businesses have one big piece of advice for holiday shoppers this year — shop early.

Both chain stores and local small businesses report feeling the effects of the supply-chain problems that have made it difficult to get products shipped as quickly as usual. To ensure customers get their desired products in time for the holidays, business owners stress the importance of checking off shopping lists sooner rather than later.

“I don’t think (the supply-chain issue) is going to go away overnight,” said Alana Turner, co-owner of Poopsie’s and Spotsie’s in Galena, Ill. “I think it’s going to be a slow path to get back on track. For us, we’ll have to be on our game and be well-prepared.”

Turner said the store owners started noticing products shipping slower around June and July. In response, they placed orders for all the products they would need for the rest of the year and since have received them.

But the issues remain widespread.

“It’s toys. It’s art,” Turner said. “And it’s not just stuff from overseas. It’s also affecting things made here in the USA. We’re kind of seeing a waterfall effect of it all over.”

Robin Maiers, owner of Just For You in Dyersville, Iowa, said her store has dealt with supply-chain issues for around nine months, primarily with T-shirts and other clothing items.

“We can see online that our supplier might have 1,500 gray T-shirts in a size small, and then we’ll look that afternoon and they will all be gone,” she said. “I feel like some people just buy them to have them. I think some companies have been buying ahead like that, and we have done that, too.”

Maiers added that Just For You set a deadline next week for customers to get in special orders in order to guarantee items will be ready by the holidays.

“Customers have been great about ordering early and understanding that, so that’s a big plus for us,” she said.

Sue Davis, owner of River Lights Bookstore, 1098 Main St. in Dubuque, said the store brought out its Christmas wrapping paper early, as customers already are shopping for gifts. Davis said she was told by book publishers to order popular books early, and she placed holiday orders months ago.

“I have stocked deeper than I have ever in my life so we don’t run out of what we know are bestsellers and our staff favorites,” she said.

Julie Berstler, owner of Gotta Have It, 315 Bluff St., also said she ordered plenty of clothing and accessories ahead of time for the holiday season. However, she noted that ordering anything new likely won’t be possible in the next several weeks.

“So many manufacturers, due to COVID in the past year and a half, have been cutting (clothing) strictly to order,” she said. “All of that was done six months ago, so they don’t have anything new.”

Marissa Hoffman, co-owner of Midwest Girl, 898 Jackson St., also said certain sizes of clothing items have been hard to find, but the store has bought in bulk to prepare for the holidays. She also stressed that customers should not “shop scared” this holiday season, as retailers were alerted to potential problems months ago and have prepared for holiday shopping.

“So many small businesses already put so much time and money into their inventory,” Hoffman said. “So many have been buying in bulk since we’re not guaranteed a restock. So many small businesses have extra stock, so shop small.”

Larger chain stores also have prepared for the upcoming holiday season. Walmart and Target both announced they have increased inventory and worked with shipping companies to move products from overseas as fast as possible.

Jason White, vice president of business services for Greater Dubuque Development Corp., added that businesses also are dealing with higher prices for certain products on top of supply-chain issues.

“Many of these issues are outside of our control, and they’re probably not going to change any time soon,” White said. “For the foreseeable future, this is likely the new normal, but I think recognizing that and being aware of issues and effectively planning is the best advice for anyone.”