Even though global supply chain issues and pandemic restrictions present a challenge, local merchants are finding creative ways to keep shelves stocked for holiday shoppers.

“By being persistent in my efforts, I was able to find new products,” said Traci Smith, owner of the Picnic Pantry, a specialty kitchen and gift shop in Stanwood. “While it’s been a lot of work and a lot more hours than usual, I feel confident in having a great supply of unique, quality gifts for the entire season.”

Smith and fellow Stanwood-Camano businesspeople were able to lean on their flexibility to find products over the past few months. 

The global supply chain is being hit with a multitude of problems — factories closed due to COVID-19 surges, a lack of containers, backups at ports and warehouses, and a shortage of truckers — prompting smaller retailers to cast wide nets to get goods. 

“Being the buyer and owner of a small gift shop allows me the flexibility to order from any suppliers that I choose,” Smith said. “As the year progressed and I could see keeping my shelves stocked was going to be an issue, I just kept ordering product.”

According to the National Retail Federation, demand this holiday season is expected to remain high, despite inflation pushing costs higher. The retail industry trade group said that consumers expect to spend $997 on gifts, holiday items like food and decorations and additional “non-gift” purchases. That’s about the same as last year and down about $50 from 2019.

Scott Huntington, store director of Camano Plaza IGA, said ordering earlier in the year was key.

“Our vendors gave us a heads up about six months ago that things might be tight,” he said. “We immediately started increasing the amount we usually order to make sure that our shelves are fully stocked.”

Yvonne Corbett, owner of Ladders Clothing and Co. in Stanwood, said she began ordering items for the holiday season in June. So did Naomi Olson, who along with Dawson D’artre does the gift ordering for Elger Bay Grocery and Gifts. 

“If something wasn’t available, I was able to find other items that I know our customers will love,” Olson said. 

Area store owners and managers also said locally made items are filling some gaps.  

“We’ve definitely had problems with shipping and getting some of our usual items but, fortunately, we have amazing local artisans and crafters who have stepped up to fill our shelves with a great variety of holiday merchandise,” said Brandon Ericson, CEO of Camano Commons Marketplace at Terry’s Corner.

Doilies 2 Doorknobs owner Jackie Groves said local vendors have helped fill her Stanwood specialty clothing and home décor shop.

“I think everyone anticipated supply issues and ordered merchandise early in the year,” she said “We are fully stocked, and the local artisans and craftspeople have all brought in wonderful holiday items.”

Judy Williams, the Stanwood Chamber of Commerce board president, said local merchants will start a Shop Local campaign later this week. Camano Island Chamber of Commerce recently wrapped up its Shop Local Win Local promotion. 

Local businesses said they hope people continue to shop in the Stanwood-Camano area, seizing on the shop local campaigns as well as opportunities such as the annual Small Business Saturday — Nov. 27 this year. According to the Small Business Economic Impact Study, about 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the local community.  

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