Supply chain issues are reaching just about all corners of the globe — including some businesses in Chautauqua County.
Area business owners spoke with The Post-Journal regarding how these issues are impacting their stock as well as their business in general. As it stands, the supply chain disruptions are impacting local shops in various ways.
Tim Mead, the owner of Kennedy Supermarket, said some items are unavailable from week to week, including Kraft brand products, Oscar Meyer and others. He said there doesn’t seem to be a clear reason as to why these products are unavailable.
“You’ll get an item right along and then they’ll be out of stock,” Mead said. “You won’t get them for a while and then, all of a sudden, they have them again. What we do, being a business that isn’t a corporate chain, we can buy from a lot of different sources. When that happens, we’re able to do that, being smaller by having a number of different sources to buy goods from.”
Mead said when the pandemic first started, there were also issues with the supply chain. When that occurred Mead, who also owns The Office restaurant, said he was able to purchase items from foodservice companies. Those companies had an abundance of stock as many restaurants closed at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I was able to buy all my steaks and all that kind of stuff from food service when the supply chain kind of stopped,” he said. “We had meat down here in Kennedy when a lot of the big stores uptown didn’t, so we got bombarded. It was something else. Now it’s like everyday items here and there. We’re getting a delivery right now, and our out of stock page on our invoices is a mile long.”
Mead said it has been challenging with both the stock issues and price changes. He said prices have been much higher for items. Mead added that the change has been gradual throughout the pandemic; at first, everyone was sold out of everything, then manufacturing plants were impacted by COVID sweeping through the staff and had to be shut down.
Chad Ecklof, owner of Ecklof Bakery in Jamestown, said his bakery has also been impacted by the supply chain issues and increases in prices. For example, shortening has gone from around $20 a cube to $100 a cube throughout the pandemic.
“That’s for 50 pounds of shortening,” he said. “With the jellies and fillings, we’ve had a hard time getting those. The companies that make some of the products have had to shut down their line because they just can’t keep up with the workload — they’re short of employees. There are all different aspects. The trucking industry has noticed a shortage of drivers so we’ve had shipments not even arriving for our distributors to be able to get it to us — shipments of flour, sugar and things like that. It goes right down the line.”
Ecklof said these issues make it hard for businesses to function because it “keeps us in a constant state of trying to figure out how to satisfy orders, fill orders and how to have enough for the store.” He said this is worrisome coming into the holiday season.
“We have to adjust our product offerings, especially now going into the holidays,” Ecklof said. “There’s a lot of products that people expect to see during the holidays, and we have to be kind of on pins and needles now as to whether or not we can even make it. We’ve had to stock up ahead on what we can get. There are some ingredients we’ve already been told there is a chance they won’t be here for Thanksgiving and Christmas. S we stocked up, which means now we have a whole bunch of money tied up in inventory that we normally wouldn’t have tied up in inventory. That hurts.”
Ecklof said while customers might like to help, they can’t impact the supply chain issue. However, they can support local businesses and be understanding when they might be out of something or unable to procure it.
He added that he understands that many individuals and families might not have the funds to do extra shopping.
“That’s expecting a lot of our of our customers, too,” Ecklof said. “We understand from our customer’s point of view that it’s difficult for them to shop for items like baked goods because a baked good is a luxury item. There’s a lot of people who are doing without right now — so we don’t have them as customers at this point, and that’s why we’re just happy to get them back when we can. We understand it’s a tight time.”
Ecklof said if people can shop locally without strapping their finances, he encourages them to support local businesses with the understanding that the holiday season might be a little different this year.
“If there is something you really want, and the business doesn’t have it, maybe pick something different,” he said. “It’s a good time to try something new that you haven’t tried before or take what you can get because a lot of businesses are going to be short during the holidays. It’s a hard time right now, and the businesses that are open are doing their best to stay open, which means they’re doing their best to provide whatever they can to their customers.”
Ecklof said the best thing customers can do at this point is “walk in with a smile, and do the best you can to help your local businesses out – and your local businesses will do the best they can to continue to help out the community.”
Kaitlyn Bentley, the owner of Peterson Farms, has been impacted by the supply chain disruptions as well. There have been delays in receiving products, increased prices and other issues.
“I have a lot of stuff as far as our imports, like our stuff from Sweden, that are taking many extra weeks to get here,” she said. “Even if it’s coming from Chicago, it’s taking quite a long time.”
With the holiday season starting shortly, Bentley said the store is urging people to start shopping for their staple items early. She said the store does do some shipping from the store, but the U.S. Postal Service is advising there will be delays and they are extending priority shipping from two days to three days.
This year, Bentley said the store generally has a birdseed sale, but at this point, It will cost the store the same amount they can sell it for.
“It’s going to go through the roof, and I think that’s a lot of logistics problems,” she said. “Not having the people to harvest, but also the trucking prices to get it anywhere, to bag it and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, we’ve got to raise some prices, but we’re working to keep it as low as we can as we normally do. Also, we just hope stuff comes in in time – I suggest send stuff early and maybe throw it in the freezer, if it’s bread or something, it can always be frozen until Christmastime.”
Bentley said price increases aren’t an attempt by local stores to get extra money out of customers. She said the situation has made it very difficult for local businesses, and they are just trying to survive and provide goods and services to the public.
“We’re all mad about it, but maybe take pity on (the shops),” she said. “We’re only raising it because, as I’m sure it is for every business, it has to be so we can keep the lights on and keep going. It’s not our choice — it’s definitely not a price-gouging situation. It’s definitely a long-term thing, especially when we were shut down for so long as a country.”
Bentley said the situation isn’t going to get better immediately, but it should “straighten out” after the holidays.
“There’s definitely going to be some recovery time,” she said. “Hopefully it will all catch back up. I would just say keep kindness in your hearts this holiday season.”