Planning Ahead Because of Supply Chain Issues


by Mike Houston

2021 has brought a host of challenges for small businesses like TPSS, but let’s focus on the current and upcoming supply chain issues.  

According to the October US Census Small Business Survey Pulse Survey, 45% of surveyed businesses said they are having domestic supplier delays and issues—that’s up 27% compared to 2020. Everything is taking longer to get to its destination: toys, clothes, and even food. The Co-op has so far avoided the worst effects that some stores have seen, but we need to be prepared in case shortages or logistics issues hit us during the holidays.   

Jeremy Plemons, owner of County Manners food truck based in southern Maryland, said he was shocked by the lack of products at his local stores. He said he has had trouble finding things like plasticware and ingredients for his recipes. It’s put a stress on him and his business. 

General manager of Niskayuna Co-op in New York says flexibility is key. “We have to be flexible. And that flexibility and resilience through all of this is going to provide the best customer experience.” 

The Co-op has been lucky not to see the double digit price hikes on some items found in other stores, in part due to sourcing from local vendors that don’t depend on scale and large supply chains to meet demand. Holiday turkeys, available for pre-order, are still $2.99/lb just like last year.  

Last year, Bob Gibson, a member of the co-op’s board of representatives, wrote a blog about why you might not be able to find your favorite things at the store and explained the supply chain shortages. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many larger businesses and factories had to slow down or stop production altogether. As we moved further into the pandemic and safety measures were put in place, production began again, but with fewer workers. This worker shortage has been wreaking havoc on the supply chain, however it is not all bad news. 

Chieh Huang, CEO of online bulk goods retailer Boxed mentioned that “the industry is better off than [it was] this time last year” mainly because last year it was hard to find just about anything in the midst of the pandemic. Luckily, this year, it is only a few items that you might not be able to cross off your list.  

Our advice? Start looking for substitutions and be flexible with your shopping list. We may not have each item for every recipe, but we’ll certainly have plenty of food to feed your family and make the holidays special. If you’re having trouble, ask an associate for help while you shop, ask friends and family for tips and tricks in advance, or consult Google and social media for suggestions. This also provides the perfect time to try out new recipes and introduce new traditions for the holidays. Changing things up may be just what you need to make the holidays spectacular.