By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Transportation issues, labor shortages and global politics are having the same impact on locally owned retail stores as they are on their larger colleagues.
Retailers in Wyoming are reporting they are having troubles meeting the demands of their hometown customers due to the same supply chain “breakdown” seen across the country.
Sarah Growney, owner of The Thistle gift shop in Cody, said many of the items she would normally carry around this time of year just haven’t arrived yet.
“I ordered everything for Christmas in January,” she said. “It was the absolute earliest I was able to order. But a lot of the Christmas decor items, things like that – they’re still sitting in freight containers on the ocean. I haven’t received a single Christmas tree, including for my own shop, so we’re like the shop without a Christmas tree. It’s a little sad.”
Such delays are costly for a store like The Thistle, especially at this time of year.
“It’s not going to do me much good if I get it Dec. 15,” Growney said. “In fact, that’ll hose me. So that’s the other game we’re playing. It’s checking in with our vendors constantly because you don’t want to get a big Christmas decor display Dec. 5.”
Growney said even the production of locally made products if being delayed because of shortages of supplies made in other parts of the country.
“This is an American made candle, it’s out of Sheridan, Wyoming,” she said. “But even though it’s American made, they’re still delayed because they can’t get their glass. So even if the product is made in the U.S., they might rely on something coming from overseas, and that’s causing them delay.”
The supply issues are having negative effects on all businesses, from retail stores to the auto industry.
Bert Miller, general manager the Denny Menolt auto dealership in Cody, said the dealership’s ability to sell vehicles has been hampered by circumstances halfway around the world.
“We’ve got a lot of cars that are built, but they’re waiting for their microprocessors, which has slowed things up dramatically,” Miller said. “When we have countries like Malaysia that went down with COVID, and shut down the microchip processor plants, that’s why you see our lot is short about 100 new vehicles.”
And although they are selling some vehicles, Miller noted that delivery for many customers is being delayed significantly.
“You know, normal sold orders will take maybe 60 days,” he said. “And now we’re looking at about four months with the shipping and everything impacting it, and the micro-processors are a tremendous problem.”
But auto sales operations like Denny Menholt don’t just sell cars – the company services them as well. And parts have been hard to come by.
“We’re just doing the best for our customers,” Miller said. “We might have to loan them a vehicle. Sometimes we can get things done within a week, if those parts are really on backorder, but we rely on the GM chain and we do everything we can to get their vehicle fixed.”
Both Miller and Growney cite transportation issues as a weak link in the supply chain.
“The trains really hamper us because the rail cars have to go where the vehicles are ready,” Miller said. “So they’ll move the rail cars around, and then about the time the plant’s got some vehicles going out, they have to get the rail cars back in. And of course, they can’t roll things without them being full. So when they do reach the trucking facility, then we’re waiting to get full loads to roll those trucks. So there’s a tremendous delay.”
“It’s real, what you’re watching on the news,” said Growney. “They’re like, ‘Well, we have five containers on the ocean, we might get one in tomorrow.’ I’ve never had to deal with this.”
Growney added there are businesses between the suppliers and the store owners that are also affected.
“My concern is for the vendors,” she said. “Like, if I don’t get my product, they’re not getting paid.”
But businesses are trying to stay positive, despite the obstacles.
“Fortunately, we carry a little bit of something for everyone, so the shop is plentiful,” Growney said. “But I know what we’re missing. We’re going to have a great Christmas, but it’s frustrating.”