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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Buy it when you see it’: Local retailers encouraging patrons to shop early amid supply chain shortage

Boo Radley’s general manager Jen Menzer poses for a photo on Nov. 20 at the store in downtown Spokane. Boo Radley’s is among several local retailers gearing up for a busy holiday shopping season.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Re)

When Auntie’s Bookstore owner John Waite noticed a nationwide shortage of goods, he took swift action to ensure the store had sufficient inventory for the holidays.

“We started early. We ordered a huge, broad range of things,” Waite said. “If something was fairly popular on a consistent level month-to-month, we ordered a lot of extras.”

Although Waite ordered extra inventory, it only goes so far during one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year.

Waite and other Spokane-area retailers are encouraging patrons to shop for Christmas gifts early as supply chain shortages – blamed in part on the pandemic – coincide with what the National Retail Federation predicts to be a record-breaking holiday shopping season.

More than 158 million consumers nationwide are anticipated to shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday – an increase of 2 million people compared with 2020, according to the retail federation.

“In the last three months, we’ve been talking to our customers using social media and telling people to shop early because we think things are going to be hard to get this year,” said Waite, who also owns Merlyn’s Comics and Games in downtown Spokane.

Novelty store Boo Radley’s, 232 N. Howard St., has been ordering products year-round in preparation for the holiday shopping season, General Manager Jen Menzer said.

“We tried to get orders in from our most popular vendors and tried to get big orders in a little earlier than we normally would,” Menzer said.

Boo Radley’s encountered a few supply chain-related challenges, including packaging shortages from suppliers and delivery delays for some orders placed in the summer, Menzer said.

Despite those challenges, Boo Radley’s is stocked with inventory and people are shopping for holiday gifts, mostly picking up socks, candles, puzzles and games, Menzer said.

“We’re ready. I think it will be a great season for everyone,” she said. “My advice to people is: shop early. Start now and buy it when you see it because it’s probably not going to be there if you wait. It’s going to be crazy the next couple of weekends with all the activities downtown.”

The General Store, 2424 N. Division St., began stocking its children’s toy department this summer with expectations of an uptick in holiday sales, said co-owner Miles Barany.

“We put together a toy wonderland in the toy department earlier this year. My brother was the brainchild behind it,” Barany said. “He was receiving so much flack because he was ordering toys over the summer, but we are pretty well-positioned to be able to supply the local community with toys.”

Barany is anticipating Carhartt gear and other winter items to be in high demand through the holiday season.

“We are worried we are going to run out of winter stuff that’s in super-high demand in the middle of December,” Barany said. “As soon as the snow falls, historically, we get swarmed. We sell a whole lot of winter goods and boots.”

Barany said he hopes to capture more shoppers during the holiday season seeking outdoor products.

“A lot of people want to get out. They want to go to places and want to look at more than just online,” Barany said. “And they have been coming into the General Store.”

Consumers face a competitive market for new gaming consoles – such as the Xbox Series X and the Playstation 5 – amid a semiconductor chip shortage and scalpers using bots to snap up the machines online, said Matt McKerall, owner of independent video game retailer Game World, which has two Spokane-area stores and a location in Barstow, California.

“Consoles are available out there, but just at heavily inflated prices,” McKerall said, adding some customers mentioned paying $800 on average for a Playstation 5, which has a recommended retail price of $399.

McKerall began stocking up on inventory last year because of anticipated inflation, supply chain issues and shipping delays.

“I had delays of over two months for some orders, so planning ahead really helped to be prepared for the holidays,” he said.

Game World is seeing an increase in consumers buying video games and older Nintendo, Atari and Playstation 4 consoles as they are choosing to spend more time at home.

“Multiplayer games have been more popular with families playing games together more now than I’ve seen in years,” he said. “I also get a sense that many people are buying out of nostalgia, taking them back to happy times in their lives.”

“Since we have thousands of titles in stock, it’s really not a tough sell for people to find something they will enjoy,” McKerall added. “We also noticed more people buying more board games from us as they are willing to try alternatives for gaming with friends and family.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, shoppers were forced to adapt to online shopping as statewide stay-home orders limited in-person shopping.

Now, another shift is occurring because of supply chain issues, labor shortages and shipping delays, according to a holiday retail report by WSU’s Carson College of Business and consumer research firm Edelman Data & Intelligence.

The report found more than 67% of Pacific Northwest shoppers are enthusiastic about the holiday season, compared with 52% in 2020, signaling they are more likely to travel or spend more on gifts this year.

More than 60% of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene residents surveyed in the WSU report indicated they are likely to purchase gifts from local businesses.

While some patrons will continue online shopping this year, others are looking to shop in-store because of current supply chain issues, according to the report.

More than 61% of Pacific Northwest shoppers indicated they are likely to shop in-store and 44% said in-store shopping is easier because of supply chain issues and shipping delays.

“Part of the reason is that shoppers can go in-store and take home the products. They can see what’s available and they know they will have it and do not have to worry about the shipping delays,” said Joan Giese, a clinical associate professor of marketing and international business at WSU. “Part of the reason, too, is they’ve just missed shopping in-store. Our results indicated that people are excited to go back to some sense of normalcy and even wishing that they could go back to the way shopping was before COVID.”