The Ever Given, a 1,300-foot-long container ship, made headlines in March when it got stuck in the Suez Canal, disrupting passage for weeks for other ships and stopping essentially a trade estimated at $ 9.6 billion. (It was an important enough event that he its own Wikipedia entry.)
Such international stories seem far removed from most of us. But it’s worth looking specifically at how the current supply chain crisis brought on by the seemingly endless Covid-19 pandemic is affecting local small businesses – places like the record store around the corner or the pet store down the street. Companies like Pre-game coffee downtown.
“When this ship was stuck in the Suez Canal, all of my mocha tea was on this ship,” Pregame owner Rob Arnold told LEO Weekly. “I couldn’t have mocha tea for a month. It hits us hard.
For Lorena Casas-Ostos, owner of Mexican tacos, which has branches in downtown and St. Matthews, supply chain issues have become an ongoing headache. She had difficulty ordering simple items such as plates and soda cups from her online supplier Webstaurant Store. For example, the usual cups she used became unavailable, and the lids she already had did not match the replacement cups. So she also had to buy new lids.
“It used to be so easy for me,” she said. “I would say, ‘I need this and that,’ I would go to the provider’s web page and I would click, click, click. Now I have to spend more time. What used to be a simple task is no longer so. It’s always something.
And it’s not just about idling ships in distant canals or a stranded shore laden with produce that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Labor shortages are also wreaking havoc, making matters worse. Some industries find themselves in a shortage of all kinds of means of production. The New York Times recently posted a story on how a truck driver shortage is negatively affecting the supply chain in the United States
“Truck drivers have been scarce for years, but a wave of retirements combined with those simply quitting for less stressful jobs is worsening the supply chain crisis in the United States,” The Times reported, “Leading to empty store shelves, panicked vacations. buyers and congestion at ports. Warehouses across the country are crammed with products, and delivery times have stretched to months or even days or weeks for many commodities. “
And one might be surprised at the number of different industries that can be affected by supply shortages. Kelly Estep, co-owner of Carmichael Bookstore, said the problems she has faced are on several levels. To start, many large American printing houses have closed in recent years, therefore, most of the major publishers have been printing books in China.
So not only is it harder to get books printed domestically, it’s harder than ever to get them to the United States and to bookstore shelves once they’re printed. In addition, she said, a general shortage of paper is also affecting her business, as well as bookstores around the world. She said it was getting even harder to get hold of cardboard boxes to ship products like books.
“Almost every element of our supply chain has been affected this year,” said Estep.
And that’s not even talking about the local staff shortages that many small businesses face.
Hiring and no-show
Arnold hasn’t made an effort to hire new staff for his cafe so far this fall, but even if he did, it would be a challenge. He said from February to June that he aggressively sought to hire new staff, and during that time 22 different potential employees did not even show up for a first interview. No phone calls, no excuses, just ghost images.
“I put out an ad, and they would respond to it, we would correspond by email, a meeting would be set, and they would never come,” he said. His theory is that they used the dates to show that they were actively looking for work to meet unemployment benefit requirements, and that they had never intended to accept a job.
Casas-Ostos faced similar challenges. Although she currently has enough staff to operate, she wants to be able to hire at least one more person. But that person did not materialize.
“I really need to hire other people and I couldn’t do it,” she said. “People don’t interest me, and if they’re interested, they want to work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and that’s it.”
Joe Phillips is the owner of Pints & Union, a European-style pub in New Albany, and it has built a cohesive permanent staff by offering benefits, flexibility and competitive salaries – “No one in my kitchen makes less than $ 15 an hour now,” said he declared. But he has faced hiring issues in the past, even before Covid-19.
Phillips believes that much of the problem now is that the interruption the pandemic has placed on everyone’s lives is that it has given exhausted hospitality and retail workers a chance to stop. and reconsider their path. Many of them have taken the time to get certifications online in other fields or to start their own home-based businesses, according to Phillips.
Jennifer Rubenstein, Director of Louisville Independent Business Alliance, said she regularly hears from member companies about personnel issues, including Arnold.
“Getting someone to show up for an interview is a victory in itself,” she said. “Even before the pandemic, that seemed like the first thing people looked for, these soft skills. Many places will train you; they just need someone who is serious about coming to work and who is reliable. And it’s not just restaurant and retail employees, they’re skilled jobs too.
She said she had been in contact with the Jefferson Community and Technical College to match students with potential employers locally. It has also launched a Youth Advisory Council for LIBA, and discussions are underway on launching a job fair to help small businesses find new workers.
“It’s not just China”
But this type of staff shortage is not limited to local consumer-oriented businesses. Often the supplies arrive in the United States and there is not enough manpower to move the products forward, first offloading them and then properly inspecting them for national distribution. And even when a truck finally manages to make its way to its destination, the aforementioned truck driver shortage can delay things.
Roger Baylor is the beer program director for Pints & Union, and he said that at one point a shipment of Pilsner Urquell beer, a staple at Pints & Union, arrived on the coast. is. Some of it was moved forward, but much of it stayed there for a long time. Beer, of course, has a limited shelf life, Baylor said, and thanks to a failure in the control system, much of that shipment had to be discarded due to spoilage.
The three largest ports for product containers, measured in TEU (20ft Equivalent Unit) in America, are located in Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York, by Baylor. When these get stuck, businesses of all types suffer.
“It stands to reason, it’s not just China,” Baylor said. “For the most part, we took about three weeks to a month late” in delivering products.
How are businesses combating this? For Carmichael’s, it’s about buying more books at a time. Estep said this year Carmichael’s produced their holiday catalog early to overcome not only printing and paper challenges, but book supplies as well. They chose the books that would be presented for the holiday season and ordered large quantities instead of as needed due to cash flow and storage considerations.
“Normally in our industry we have become accustomed to what we call a ‘just in time’ inventory,” said Estep. “If you go to the Bardstown Road store, we’ve got loads of stuff. We have books in the commercial office, stacked on the shelves.
For his part, Arnold uses a similar strategy as much as he can. He buys much of his supplies from Barista Pro Shop, which has a warehouse in Louisville. Faced with a shortage of cups, he stopped by the warehouse one day and saw workers actively unloading a truck full of cups.
“I said, ‘Keep it all, I’m going to buy a thousand dollar mugs right now,’ he said. “I placed the order in the parking lot.”
And maybe the same is true for Christmas shoppers this year. If your local businesses are getting ahead of the curve, it’s probably a sign that we should all be following suit. As Christmas approaches, starting with the annual Black Friday shopping spree, shipping online orders could get very tricky.
Buy locally, buy early and you could be ahead of the game, depending on Pinch of market spices Thomas McGee. He said many of his customers started shopping for Thanksgiving spices earlier than in previous years. Since he still has spices stuck in distant lands, with no idea when they might arrive in his inventory, he advises buying holiday supplies as soon as possible.
“Be strategic in your command,” he said. “We are one step ahead in our messages to our customers. We’re getting the same message from Postal Services, FedEx, and UPS that they are already expecting delays and will continue to do so.
Of course, buying local will mean that shipping won’t matter as much, at least on the business-to-consumer side. One thing is certain: with these ongoing challenges, with no relief in sight, local businesses need support.
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