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NAMPA — Stephanie Coker, owner of Real Deals, began preparing for the holiday shopping season in February. That’s when she ordered merchandise for her home decor and fashion boutique in Nampa.

“I saw things coming,” Coker said by phone.

Ongoing problems in supply chains — the routes for getting things that are manufactured, grown or mined to where they can be sold — will persist through the busy holiday shopping season. That means products may be in short supply and prices may be higher than usual. But experts predict Americans will continue shopping.

IMPORTANT WEEKEND

Thanksgiving weekend, including Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, remains an important period for retailers. Two-thirds of holiday shoppers, or 158.3 million Americans, surveyed in early November plan to shop on Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

“We’re expecting another record-breaking holiday season this year and Thanksgiving weekend will play a major role as it always has,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a news release. “Nonetheless, consumers are starting earlier than ever to be sure they can get what they want, when they want it, at a price they want to pay. Black Friday stopped being a one-day event years ago, and this year some consumers started shopping for Christmas as early as Halloween.”

Real Deals, which opened one month before the coronavirus came to Idaho, is banking on Thanksgiving weekend.

“This week last year was one of our biggest weeks of the year,” Coker said.

The same goes for Disc-Cover Records, a downtown Nampa record store.

“It’s extremely important,” said owner Al Babbitt by phone. “(Black Friday) is probably our second busiest day of the year, right after Record Store Day itself.”

SHORT SUPPLY

Just as last year’s holiday shopping season presented unique challenges, 2021 is marked by supply issues as well as labor shortages.

“Vinyl is in very short supply this year, mostly because there’s a two-and-a-half-year backlog with the pressing plants,” Babbitt said. “So, I would say, what we have is what we’re going to get, unfortunately.”

Of American small business owners who rely on holiday sales for a significant part of yearly revenue, about half (49%) of them believe both supply chain and staffing issues will impact holiday sales, according to survey data from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Suzanne Budge, Idaho state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said Idaho business owners have similar views.

“Worker shortage, for the first time in as long as I’ve represented NFIB, has gone to the top of the list and stayed there, certainly through the pandemic,” Budge said by phone. “When businesses hope to get back to normal, it doesn’t seem to be happening. I’ve traveled widely for the last three or four months; it’s true of everywhere in the country I’ve been: ‘help wanted’ signs, worker shortage, record (number of) people leaving the workforce.”

Labor problems and supply chain issues, coupled with rising inflation (the consumer price index hit a three-decade high in October), may spell higher prices on goods.

Coker said she’s “very careful” to keep prices competitive, but in some cases Real Deals had to bump costs. In some cases, freight costs have spiked 40% or more, Coker said.

“It sure will be nice when the supply chain gets straightened out,” she said.

‘HEALTHY TURNOUT’

Retailers and shoppers should still expect crowds this weekend, whether in stores or online.

The Conference Board, an economic think tank, estimates consumers intend to spend an average of $648 on holiday gifts this year — plus an additional $374 on related non-gift items. The $648 is down from the $673 consumers spent last year, but gift budgets remain “historically high,” a news release said.

Sales, as always on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, will invite shoppers to spend more. Real Deals will offer “doorbuster” sales on local products. Disc-Cover Records is offering 20% off CDs and cassettes.

“I’m expecting a very healthy turnout,” Babbitt said.

Ryan Suppe is the Boise City Hall and Treasure Valley business reporter for the Idaho Press. Contact him at 208-344-2055 (ext. 3038). Follow him on Twitter @salsuppe.

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