The cost of business: Businesses face supply-chain issues, higher vendor prices heading into Black Friday
Many local businesses suffered during 2020 as non-essential shops shut down. Upon reopening there were limits set in place for how many people could enter a given space, along with masking requirements.
A year later, after the release of multiple COVID-19 vaccines, cases have taken a downturn in the community and some normalcy has been restored, but some store owners are still feeling uncertain about the future. In the Tahoe Truckee region, with the recent uptick in tourism and drastic increase in the local population, stores are seeing steadier business, but are also lacking in employees due to the high price of housing.
They are also seeing higher rents, overhead costs, and higher prices from their vendors, along with delayed shipments for up to several months, which has often affected pricing. Despite these hurdles, some owners expect Black Friday to be a successful, yet calm, day compared to the bustling stores down the hill in Reno.
Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council, said he believes that the pandemic continues to affect all businesses in the region, with some prospering and some still struggling to recover, but that this season offers opportunities for a strong economic recovery.
“Perhaps just as impactful in the future may be the impact of wildfire smoke and displacement on our local business community, which we must continue to work to mitigate,” said Frisch.
The owner of Nomad Boutique, Ali Schultz, is one of the lucky business owners who has bounced back from the pandemic, and will continue to have her annual Black Friday sale this year with 20% off storewide. Nomad is one of the few places in downtown Truckee that offers more affordable prices on clothing, said Schultz, but she’s been forced to bump her prices slightly due to higher prices from her vendors. She has also been experiencing higher overhead costs.
“The bills go up every year, rent gets more expensive,” Schultz said, adding that she believes her expenses have gone up due to the inflation leftover from the pandemic. “I’m definitely seeing it through my vendors. When a top is costing five to six dollars more than it did compared to the year before, you’re definitely feeling that.”
Schultz said that she is still trying to stick to her same markup and attributes her shop’s success on being able to provide more affordable clothing options rather than some of her counterparts, who sell pairs of jeans for a price upward of $300, whereas she tries to keep prices anywhere from $35 to $55.
“My success is from my price points,” she said “I’m definitely trying to stay loyal to that and hope that people come up to visit Tahoe and keep us nice and busy.”
Schultz said that as far as managing risks this season, Nomad is continuing to follow safety guidelines and indoor masking. Although she has not experienced any difficulties with enforcing masks, she said that other businesses in Truckee have had their struggles.
On supply chain issues, Schultz stated that she, like so many other businesses, has had delays on shipments. She had made an order from a vendor which was expected to arrive in July, but her order didn’t arrive until mid-November. The vendor explained to her that it had also been experiencing supply chain issues.
Owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports, Dave Polivy, said that the current inventory at the store is also somewhat limited due to supply chain issues — a problem for the shop since the beginning of the pandemic.
Polivy said that it has been a challenge to have any visibility into what will be on the shelves, especially for those who are looking for very specific items. His store has had 60-70% of its inventory delayed, often for up to 60 days. Many of Polivy’s orders have also ended up having to be canceled. Now, Polivy orders his inventory almost a year ahead of time.
He also said that outdoor vendors have been raising prices and his store prices will reflect those found online. Despite this, he expects that sales will continue. Polivy said that last Black Friday was fairly busy. He has a positive outlook for the rest of the season, adding that the outdoor industry has been able to remain busy despite the setbacks of the 2020 lockdowns.
He also expects Black Friday in the Tahoe Truckee region to be more low key, as it typically has been for many years compared to shopping in Reno.
“Nobody’s banging down the doors, there’s no line outside. We’re not gonna necessarily run out of anything Friday at 11 a.m., so you don’t have to rush down here.”
Polivy believes that the overall shopping experience is more enjoyable in Truckee.
“…you have the opportunity to interact with actual sales people and to get our expert advice,” he said. “In the bigger stores in Reno, you can’t even find a salesperson, you have no idea what a product is best for. Shopping locally in Truckee you have that personal touch. We’re not curating products for the rest of the world like Target or REI, we’re curating a set of products that fit perfectly in Truckee. Also, there’s the opportunity to support local businesses who, in turn, support the community”
Polivy, a former Truckee mayor, said that of every dollar spent locally, almost 70 cents of it stays in the community.
“Those dollars that you spend in Reno or on Amazon never see their way back into the Truckee community.” Polivy said.
Aside from contributing to local businesses, Nomad Boutique owner Schultz said she believes that shopping in Truckee is a better place for those who want to avoid lines and crowds.
“It’s just so much more of an enjoyable experience overall,” she added. “You have the fresh mountain air, you’re not going to have people throwing elbows at you for a flat screen in some big box store. It’s just more of a zen experience than going to Reno.” Schultz said.
Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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