Small businesses concerned about supply chain issues

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 11:25 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Empty shelves, low inventory or no inventory. Small business owners in the Mid-South are navigating unchartered territory as they deal with supply chain issues this holiday season.

Small Business Saturday is coming up this weekend. That’s the day set aside after Thanksgiving to shop local and support mom and pop shops in our community. And because of global supply chain issues, supporting this year’s Small Business Saturday is even more important.

RELATED | 15 US governors create ‘Operation Open Road’ to deal with supply chain issues

At Falling Into Place, a Binghampton boutique and gift store on Broad Avenue in Memphis, owner Mary Claire White, said the holiday shopping season can represent up to 60-percent of their annual business.

“It’s very stressful,” said White. “We’re having to stock up on things and order much more frequently. Trying to figure out what we need, when we need it and when to order it so we don’t run out has been hard.”

In Hernando, Mississippi, Kim Derryberry, owner of Side Alley Gifts, has already warned her loyal shoppers.

“I have a lot of product,” she said, “but I’ve told all of my customers that what you see is it. If you like it today, you should buy it, because we’re not going to be able to get it again.”

Derryberry said she has thousands of dollars in goods stuck on cargo ships, unable to offload because of manpower shortages at U.S. ports.  

Jill Troutman, owner of MemphisMomWreaths on Etsy, can relate. Her wreath-making business relies on ribbon and decorative mesh made overseas.

“It comes from Korea and Taiwan and it is sitting on boats in the Port of Houston and Port of Los Angeles,” said Troutman. “I’ve had to communicate to my customers and say your wreath may not look exactly like this because ribbon is not available. It’s also hard to find ornaments because they’re already sold out. Our sales will be lower, maybe to the tune of 20 to 30-percent.”

At Baker’s Corner, Leslie King’s gluten-free bakery in DeSoto County, Mississippi, she sources most of her ingredients locally. She’s stocked up as best she can and hopes Mid-Southerners make a concerted effort to shop local for gifts and goodies.

“All of the small business owners, we have families to support,” said King.

At Hog Wild BBQ in East Memphis, owner Ernie Mellor is dealing with food shortages and the products used to serve meals.

“Everything price-wise is through the roof. You can’t get all the cuts of meat, I’m talking proteins, beef, and even chicken. And paper goods, you can’t find black foam plates,” said Mellor. “The business has picked up over the last two months but we’re having to turn a lot of business down because of supply chain issues.”

U.S. Representative David Kustoff introduced legislation addressing the shortage of chassis, the special trailers needed to move shipping containers. It directs the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to ask a private company to develop a chassis-sharing model near rail ramps in Memphis.

”My bill will encourage collaboration between logistics stakeholders, to help modernize provisioning and increase freight capacity. More importantly, it will allow the private sector to step into this process and help enhance the movement of freight in the Memphis region,” said Kustoff.

In the meantime, Mid-South merchants are being forced to get creative to do business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

”I have things sitting out in the ocean,” said Derryberry.“It may show up in January or February, so that may be next year’s Christmas. Who knows?”

Kustoff’s bill is supported by the American Trucking Association and the Association of Rail Roads. Senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced the same legislation in the U.S. Senate.

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