Eagle County businesses gear up for holiday shopping amid global supply chain crisis | VailDaily.com

Eagle County businesses gear up for holiday shopping amid global supply chain crisis

Uncertainty of ordering online may bring back in-person shopping, local business leaders say

Chics Couture in Edwards is stocked and ready for the holiday shopping season. Owner Cappie Green said she hopes more people might choose to buy local over ordering online to avoid shipping delays.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

As COVID-19-induced disruptions to the global supply chain persist, Eagle County business leaders are encouraging residents to do their holiday shopping locally to avoid the uncertainties of ordering online.

Chris Romer, the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, said the degree to which local businesses have been impacted by delays varies based on industry.

“A lot of (businesses) I’ve talked to have been fortunate to be able to get a lot of their supply in,” Romer said. “It’s the specialty goods that may be a little bit harder … they’re producing things that they sell here and export as opposed to just the traditional retailer that’s getting their stock in and selling it locally.”

More specialized industries that source raw materials to build their products have been hit the hardest. Take Eagle County’s camper van builder, Dave & Matt Vans, for example.

“We’re just sort of trying to keep our head above water when it comes to being able to get all the supplies we need,” said Paddy Thomas, the operations manager for Dave & Matt Vans. “Shipping things from around the world has not proved to be the easiest thing and certainly our location doesn’t aid in that.”

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Dave & Matt Vans has had trouble sourcing microchips, heaters, refrigerators, and affordable lumber. They even had an order on the cargo ship that gained global attention when it got stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking passage for nearly a week.

Still, the company has been creative in navigating these challenges to ensure their vans are available on time and their price points and level of customer service remain unphased, Thomas said.

“Business is not slowing down regardless of whether or not we can essentially get everything that we need,” he said. “It’s a lot of trying to find new avenues of getting everything … Our team is pretty diverse in its background, so we bring a lot of different ideas to the table.”

The global supply chain crisis has also put a significant strain on local ski and snowboard shops, which often rely on shipments from factories in various parts of Asia.

Stocking up early

As for others in the retail industry, Cappie Green, owner of Chics Couture in Edwards and Eagle, said she has gotten out virtually unscathed.

She has kept her eye on the news and decided to stock up on inventory early this year to counteract any potential shipping delays. Many of her clothes come from a manufacturer based out of Los Angeles, California, but some pieces are ordered from China, Vietnam, and Canada, so Green said she wanted to be sure she didn’t run into any snags.

“It’s hard because I’m paying for everything months and months in advance but, yeah, I feel very lucky because I am hearing a lot of stores aren’t getting their stuff or it’s late,” she said.

Chics Couture Owner Cappie Green said she ordered much of her inventory early to avoid shipping delays. Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Pandemic-driven buying trends

The trend of avoiding stores by ordering goods from home had been steadily increasing among consumers for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic really kicked this into high gear, Romer said.

Anton Veljko, store manager of the West Vail UPS, said the store has seen a steady increase in the number of packages flowing through its doors year over year, but experienced a pandemic-fueled surge.

“Companies are offering to sell and ship everything now. We’re seeing items like water, toilet paper, things that people would normally buy in supermarkets are now being bought online and shipped through us,” Veljko said.

Last season, there were times that stacks of packages filled the space, he said. His store had to accept packages from smaller UPS locations in Edwards or Avon that could not accommodate them.

“There were times where outgoing packages were filling the whole back room,” Veljko said. “So, the drivers had to maneuver a little bit and use their best skills to get all the packages out of the store.”

This increase in shipping goods, along with disruptions to the manufacturing of goods and raw materials in various parts of the world, has led us to where we are today.

Coming full circle

As consumers begin to feel the delays that come with these disruptions, Romer and Green hypothesized that we may see a sort of full circle return to more people shopping local and in person.

“I think we will see some shift back towards the in-person because of the questions and the potential delays and availability from online retailers, but I certainly don’t think that online shopping is going away,” Romer said.

“All signs point to having more visitors and second-home owners here than we have historically. So, I think the overall local sales volume is going to be up,” he added.

Green said she hopes this is true.

“I definitely had people coming in and saying they were going to shop local, and they were very nervous about buying online and whether it would get here in time,” she said. “I hope so.”

Avon resident Pamela Primm said that, now more than ever, she is trying to support local businesses and artists rather than buying online.

“I have found some very unique, fun gifts already. I am not necessarily sticking to my list, as we may not be able to get the exact thing we have in mind for others,” Primm said.

In general, now is the time to “go with the flow,” she added.

A sign hangs in a storefront window encouraging Eagle County residents to support local businesses through Small Business Saturday, held the Saturday immediately following Thanksgiving.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The recent surge in online shopping comes in a world where Amazon has set a precedent of unrealistic delivery windows. But even the world’s largest online retailer is not immune to the global supply chain crisis, Veljko said. In some cases, delivery times for Amazon Prime members have gone up from a few days to a week.

“When you see a company as big as them struggling with delivery promises, you can use that as a reference to where this whole shipping world is right now and what’s the state of it,” Veljko said.

This is because shipping is often not the problem. It is the companies that consumers order from that have been putting goods in the mail later due to complications further up in the supply chain. All shipping companies can do is staff up and ride the wave.

“We are the last link in the supply chain, and we have been making extensive preparations throughout our entire operation to make sure we are ready,” said David Rupert, a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service, in a written statement.

USPS has hired seasonal workers, invested in new package sorting equipment, and leased additional space and vehicles to prepare for the holiday season, according to a recent press release.

It is hoping to avoid “challenges faced last year,” when post offices across the country were overwhelmed by the increase in shipped goods that came with a pandemic holiday season.

To make for a smoother season this year, consumers will need to adjust their expectations, Romer said.

“The biggest message I have is you need to shop early, and you need to be flexible,” he said.

Primm said she has been “practicing patience” in her holiday shopping this year.

Other locals who submitted comments to the Vail Daily Monday said they have been rethinking material gifts altogether, swapping them for experiences or for quality time with family.

Thomas and Green said they are thankful for the patience and understanding shown by their customers thus far.

Black Friday is fast-approaching, but America’s ultimate celebration of the capitalist ideal has never been a big hit in Eagle County where interested parties typically drive to Silverthorne or Denver to partake.

The county’s big box stores like Walmart and Costco will have a slew of special steals to mark the day. Green, on the other hand, is planning weeklong sales for those more casual participants staying local through Turkey Day, she said.

More important to celebrate this year is Small Business Saturday, a time to “understand the importance of shopping local and supporting those local businesses that do a lot of good for our community,” Romer said.

“Every time you buy something in my store, you’re helping someone that either works for us or with us,” Green said. “I have high school kids that work for me. I’m giving them jobs and teaching them about business. I just think it’s really important to shop local if you can.”

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