The holiday shopping season is underway — and the national retail federation says sales are on track in the U.S. to surpass spending records.
It comes more than a year and a half into the pandemic. And some small businesses hope the season will provide a needed boost to business as retailers large and small face supply chain issues and inflation.
WTTW News spoke with three Chicago-area small business owners to see how they’re faring this holiday season.
Sekou Tafari is the owner of Frontline Books and Crafts, which has a storefront in Hyde Park, Woodlawn and Evanston. Because of the pandemic, Tafari said fewer people are on the streets, which means fewer customers are shopping at his store.
This fall, the Hyde Park location faced the possibility of needing to close. Tafari says the business is “creeping out of [this crisis].” The community has been supportive of Frontline, and he’s hopeful that the holiday season will bring more business.
“We have ups and we have downs. But during Christmas time, and Kwanzaa, we are hoping to see much more of our customer base come in, especially in our Hyde Park store. We are looking forward to seeing people come in and spend a bit more money. But the pandemic did impact us,” Tafari said.
Frontline also publishes books, and supply chain issues are delaying the amount of time it takes to do so, Tafari said.
A pet clothing store in Pilsen is also facing supply chain issues.
Cynthia Soto owns Pocha Pets Boutique, a pet clothing and accessory store in Pilsen, which opened in May 2020. Soto worked in early childhood development, which didn’t feel stable at the time. She wanted to find another way to support herself. The boutique’s items are made by Benito Moda MX, a brand her best friend, Jessamyn Gonzalez Carrasco, launched in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Soto says supply chain issues are even more significant in Mexico.
“There’s fabrics not being made anymore, so there’s items that we have to discontinue … it’s really hard because some people want more of that same item, and we just can’t make it anymore,” Soto said.
Business has been steady since the store opened, Soto said. Many people were working at home where they spent more time with their pets, which Soto says helped boost sales.
But the holiday season has been slow. She says many customers are turning to big box stores for their holiday shopping. With new items and projects, Soto is hoping she can bring more business in.
“I really think that shopping small is really thoughtful when you are shopping for someone, because it is something that is handmade, it’s something unique,” Soto said.
But there hasn’t been a slow down for Lincoln Square’s Timeless Toys.
The holiday season, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, is Timeless Toys’ busiest time of year. It makes up for one third of the business’ sales, said owner Scott Friedland.
“This year we experienced a lot of early shopping, so our October and November numbers were higher than usual. We are seeing a little bit of a slower trend now that we are in December, but it is starting to pick up as we get closer to Christmas,” Friedland said.
This year, Friedland says more customers are shopping in stores, compared to last year when online sales were significantly up. To get ahead of supply chain issues, Friedland placed his holiday toy orders in May.
“We are experiencing some shortages, once a product is out now, it’s out. I can’t reorder it like we can in a normal season, but we do have plenty of stock for our customers,” Friedland said.