Labor shortages, supply chain issues affecting retailers

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 10:26 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s the busiest time of the year for businesses as families grab remaining items on their Christmas lists, but the holiday shopping season is proving to be a challenge in more ways than one for retailers.

Labor shortages, supply chain woes and inflation has meant higher prices, empty shelves, and fewer employees to meet the demand.

“It has been tough for sure,” said Zackery Newlin, an area sales manger for Mountain High Outfitters. “We are having to adapt some strategies and really put a focus on how we recruit.”

Help wanted signs still hang in many store front windows. All the while, shoppers are hitting stores earlier and in greater numbers to get ahead of the supply chain crisis.

“With the supply chain and talk about people not getting the items they want, our Christmas season has started earlier than it has in the past,” Newlin said. “We have gotten busier sooner and that has certainly come with it’s own challenges.”

One of those challenges being limited staffing, Newlin said.

“Not having the luxury of a bountiful amount of candidates coming in definitely makes it tricky,” Newlin said.

There were hopes more people would return to work in Alabama after the state ended all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs in June, but experts say that hasn’t been the case.

“The numbers are not improving,” said Rosemary Elebash, state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

In fact, numbers are stagnant across the country.

According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses’ November Job’s Report, 29% of business owners report labor quality as their top business problem, a 48-year record high.

And it’s all despite employers’ best efforts. Elebash surveyed Alabama’s small businesses and found that 54% of owners have increased salaries and benefits, and 8% of small businesses have said they are offering a sign on bonus.

With many businesses not having any luck finding qualified employees, they have had to learn to adapt.

“They’re having to fill in those gaps where they just don’t have the people at work, Elebash said.

All the while, many stores are struggling to stock there shelves because of a disruption in global supply chains.

“There is a few brands that we ordered a lot of stuff for and we’re just not going to see it this year,” Newlin said.

COVID-19 prompted shutdowns of industries around the world, which meant manufacturers were making a lot less, driving down consumer demand. However, as lockdowns have lifted, so has consumer demand. But with worker shortages and lack of certain raw materials, manufactures and distributors are struggling to bounce back.

Elebash’s same survey found that 79% of small businesses have had a delay in receiving their inventory, 87% have seen a price increase on inventory and raw materials, and 69% have seen a price increase on shipping and transportation.

“The latest data I’ve heard is they might see a turnaround in 2023,” Elebash said. “So you know we’re looking at a whole other year of staffing shortages, inventory shortages, inflation.”

It’s why businesses are asking for your patience this holiday season.

“Be patient with others,” Newlin said. “Just try to practice some humanity this time of year and understand the circumstances some of these businesses may be in.”

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