PORTLAND, Ore. — Step inside Thinker Toys and it looks like business as usual: Well stocked shelves display puzzles and games as holiday shoppers hunt for the perfect gift.
Warnings about shortages and supply chain issues seem like distant rumors to the average passerby, at least for now. That could change as holiday shopping ramps up but it won't be for lack of planning.
Months ago, the toy store in Multnomah Village began preparing for its busiest time of the year, stocking up in anticipation of the supply chain disruptions.
Thinker Toys Manager Katelyn Maynard said some items are easier to get than others and availability varies widely depending on the supplier.
“There’s places like Ravensburger puzzles, which has been a big thing throughout the pandemic that’s super popular... We had to order everything we wanted for the rest of the year in August,” said Maynard.
The longer lead times mean re-ordering items that sell out will be nearly impossible this year.
Down the street at Peachtree Gifts, owner Petie Farkas agreed.
“We were able to get our merchandise. If anything is a hot item, usually we can just hop on it and reorder, but we’re having a hard time doing that this year,” Farkas said.
Unsure how much merchandise she'd be able to get, Farkas placed big orders with her suppliers months in advance.
The uncertainty for local retailers comes with risk, especially for small businesses where ordering too much inventory can be a costly mistake.
"That’s the thing with retail. You kind of have to take a gamble and that’s harder for little stores like ours. The big stores can do those big gambles," said Farkas.
But the gamble could pay off. Economists, like Josh Lehner with the state of Oregon, say the current supply chain issues are a sign that Americans are eager to spend.
“We're trying to buy even more than we can deliver, so that's one of those root causes. So it's really the supply chain bottlenecks because the consumer demand is so strong," said Lehner.
Industry groups like the National Retail Federation expect record sales this holiday season, forecasting a 9.5% increase from the previous high set in 2020.
So far, one thing is certain: Shoppers are hitting the streets earlier than ever this year. Both Farkas and Maynard agree on that.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of great support from the community this year. It’s been amazing how many people have been coming out and shopping with us and happy that we’re still here," said Maynard.