Kamloops, Okanagan retailers ask customers to shop early for Christmas due to supply chain problems | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops, Okanagan retailers ask customers to shop early for Christmas due to supply chain problems

Mosaic Books manager Alicia Neill thumbs through a book, Oct. 22, 2021. She says global supply chain issues are already impacting the store's Christmas season.

Some businesses in the Thompson-Okanagan have stocked up and are urging customers to get a head start on their Christmas shopping due to ongoing supply chain disruptions.

Kelowna’s Mosaic Books is seeing a four- to six-week delay on book reprints in what would normally take only two weeks, said manager Alicia Neill.

“We are having a huge problem with it right now. It’s been there since the beginning of COVID but especially in the last six months, we’ve been really struggling with the supply chain. I think the biggest thing is we rely heavily on reprint times,” she said.

If there’s a hot book coming out around Christmas time, they don’t know how many they’ll be able to have on hand, she said.

“We’re ordering very heavy ahead of time knowing that we’re going to be running out of a lot of stock," Neill said. "We won’t necessarily be empty in the store, but we won’t have the top books that people want.”

She is asking customers to purchase ahead of the traditional Christmas shopping season if they have a specific book they want.

Books aren’t the only thing being affected. She can’t get full orders for gift products like puzzles and Christmas cards.

“We’ll order 1,000 puzzles and I’ll get maybe 60 of them. It’s pretty stressful knowing what kind of stock I’ll have for the season and how full the store is going to be, that’s why people are saying ‘shop now,’” she said. “What I have in the store now I probably won’t be able to get again for the gift-y stuff.”

Mosaic Books on Bernard Avenue in Kelowna.
Mosaic Books on Bernard Avenue in Kelowna.

It’s the same challenge for Tumbleweeds Toys in Kamloops.

“We are already experiencing a lot of vendors who are cancelling orders and cancelling things that were placed months ago," owner Vanessa Gammel said. "I have a few vendors that are not accepting new orders. Anything, we order now they say we aren’t getting until 2022.”

From orders that were placed in January, 2021, some items are still trickling in and there’s a huge backlog from suppliers, she said.

Gammel has been telling customers to shop early if they can.

“We’ve got about double the inventory that we normally have for this time of year knowing that it’s not shipping very fast if at all," Gammel said. "We’re hoping that will get us through Christmas for a lot of items. We’ve got really good stock on our puzzles and our board games but a lot of other stuff is what you see is what you get.”

Sensory and fidget toys have been popular throughout 2021, but they’re already seeing some items they may not be able to restock in time.

In the last few weeks, business seems to have picked up for Christmas shopping, she said, once the global supply chain problems hit the media.

READ MORE: Retail sales climb despite rising prices, supply issues

COVID-19 is known as “the mother of all disruptions” because it collapsed all confidence in the global supply chain, from the suppliers’ side, to transportation to customers, said Amir Ardestani-Jaafari, a UBC Okanagan professor whose expertise includes supply chain management problems.

In the cast of the Thompson-Okanagan, tourism was impacted and customers also began buying products that weren’t typically in high demand in a non-pandemic year, he said.

Suppliers in Asia were shut down and restrictions for customers and transportation are still in effect with some labour shortages ongoing, so the time it takes for a customer to order and receive their goods has been disrupted, Ardestani-Jaafari said.

This season, businesses are stocking up on short-life cycle products like Christmas trees and showcasing them earlier to attract more customers because demand is uncertain and they want to be able to sell their wares.

“If there are several phases of promotions, they will see more customers,” he said.

Businesses are also pursuing other suppliers within North America, called “near-shoring” as opposed to relying solely on off-shore goods from Asia to cut down the distance and time it takes for goods to arrive, he said.

“Governments prefer to have near-shoring nowadays,” Ardestani-Jaafari said. “Big companies have several outsourcing suppliers, one in Asia and the other is in Mexico or the U.S.”

Smaller businesses can also get around shipping challenges by connecting with smaller apps and transportation companies to compete with big box companies like Amazon, he said.

The shift to sourcing goods made in North America will continue past the pandemic, he said. It was a trend that was already happening prior to but was exacerbated by COVID-19.

READ MORE: Energy crunch hits global recovery as winter approaches

“China is no longer has inexpensive suppliers, there are many challenges and with complex legislation… for instance specific restrictions on the products that can be used for kids toys… we will see some concern from the public that they prefer to have more products from locals,” Ardestani-Jaafari said.

“I think we will see a new challenge for sure, we will see a new trade-off. We will see new discussions that are still ongoing.”

He doesn’t think COVID-19 is the end of globalization but changes will be made to the global supply of goods and services.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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