Local businesses tackle supply issues and pandemic this holiday shopping season


Despite supply issues, rising costs and pandemic concerns, House By the Side of the Road, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is having its best year on record.

“Sales are up 20% from last year and last year was our best year ever,” said Abby McFarland, owner of Wilton Garden Center.

Last year, garden center customers started buying a lot more houseplants.

“I guess it’s because people are at home and are starting to do things for the house again,” McFarland said. “Our Christmas trees are gone – they sold the fifth,” she said. “We sold the ninth last year, which was a record for us at the time.”

McFarland said a rumor started around August that it would be difficult to get a Christmas tree this year, but it was the synthetic trees that were hard to come by. With the demands of shipping and supplying things take longer to come in and cost a bit more, but they did show up eventually.

“Prices have started to climb,” McFarland said. “It affects our prices a dollar here and there.”

Mike Shea, president and CEO of Jaffrey-based Belletetes, said home improvement store sales were a bit ahead of last year, but supply shortages are difficult to predict. . They also sold holiday items such as lights and tree stands, and had to replace them at a higher cost.

“Once something gets scarce, it takes a considerable amount of time for the product to start flowing again, to catch up,” he said.

The majority of Belletetes’ sales come from lumber and building materials, which have remained strong with strong housing demand.

“We are not in a vacuum; everyone competing for sales also faces the same challenges, ”said Shea. “They are experiencing rising costs and there are a lot of external forces besides the supply chain, such as trucking, fuel prices and labor. ”

Shea said sales-level positions were difficult to fill.

“Despite all these problems, it is not pessimistic,” he said.

Shea said things had been worse during different periods of the economy.

“I have experienced three economic recessions, dating back to the savings and lending crises of the late 1980s and early 1990s, to the bursting of the Internet bubble, to the mortgage crisis of 2007 to 2009 ”he said.

For Shea, his biggest fear is inflation and rising interest rates, which has generally been a phenomenon of inflation.

At Steele’s Stationers in Peterborough, part-owner Bill Littles said his sales and foot traffic were similar to last year, which was good for him, but with an expected 10% drop. Prior to last year, major retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy opened on Thanksgiving Day, but most retail stores have chosen to close for the holidays. Littles said it helped boost buying the next day, but he failed to see the 30% increases in retail sales he said were slated for this year.

“This year’s Plaid Friday is, I think, the best we’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s been eight or 10 years now since we’ve done Plaid Friday and it seems to be built every year. The locals really get down to it, bring their guests and make it a day.

“Things are definitely improving, but the flip side is that New Hampshire is entering a strange time,” Littles said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re worse than we’ve ever been right now and a lot of people are not paying attention, a lot of people are fed up.”

Littles said that since the vaccines became available, he has noticed a slight decrease in the number of buyers.

“Once people got their second shot, it was like ‘I can do things now’, and we started to see fewer and fewer people,” he said. “They were traveling, they could go and do things [whereas] before they were just local. When the vaccines came along, which was good, and you could see the people, which was good, it changed back to a normal life and they had a wider range of areas that they could go. ”

Littles said the store was only receiving summer shipments that had been ordered in the spring and that he had canceled orders because they still had not been shipped.

“I haven’t been able to get a foam core for three months,” he said. “We order things and sometimes only get six out of 40 items. It’s been a year and a half. It all started with the tanker in the middle of the Suez Canal. It all snowballed from that.

Everything that ships by container has been blocked, but Littles said it hasn’t seen as many problems with local or airlifted items.

“For example, cigars are shipped in containers,” he said. “Sometimes we wait three, four months for one.”

He also said they were having trouble getting items with computer chips.

“You just have to roll with it,” Littles said. He orders more than he can if he suspects the item will be in short supply later.

Finding constant help, keeping supplies in stock, and recovering from last year’s almost non-existent hospitality industry has been a journey. At the Jack Daniels Motor Inn in Peterborough, which Eric Lorimer co-owns with his wife Pam, sales figures have returned to a pre-pandemic state, but also at a price.

“It’s pretty much brute force,” he said. “We worked overtime and filled in the gaps. ”

Paper and cleaning supplies were difficult to get on time, but Lorimer orders ahead and finds replacements as needed. He has four staff members who have stayed at the Inn through the ups and downs of the past two years and after searching for a summer he hired additional housekeeping staff earlier this year.

“From January to March of this year has been quite slow, like the whole of 2020,” he said. “From mid-April we have been a bit busier, so we’re back to 2019 numbers.”

The hostel was fully booked over Thanksgiving weekend this year with friends and family visiting town. Lorimer and his wife worked during the holidays to give the staff time.

Retail store owners are grateful to loyal customers and give credit to an appreciation of local shopping in the area. Steele’s customers were buying gifts just to celebrate people – like balloons to put on lawns – and the Littles sold their Christmas cards last year.

“They were going too far trying to do things for people,” Littles said. “They were writing, wanting to be in touch with people as best they could.”

At House by the Side of the Road, McFarland said, “Our puzzle sales have probably increased by 300%. Thanks everyone, because it’s awesome.


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