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For many retailers, business has never been better. The future? Uncertain.

Kristin Schwab Jan 13, 2022
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Americans have been eager to shop in recent months but haven't been able to find everything they want. Fresh retail sales data will come out Friday. Raul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

For many retailers, business has never been better. The future? Uncertain.

Kristin Schwab Jan 13, 2022
Heard on:
Americans have been eager to shop in recent months but haven't been able to find everything they want. Fresh retail sales data will come out Friday. Raul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

We get December’s retail sales numbers Friday morning. The trend in the previous months? Americans have been buying stuff — and lots of it. That’s great for retailers.

But between omicron, supply chain problems and staffing shortages, getting people the exact items they want isn’t easy.

So, we decided to check in with business owners to see what’s on their minds.

Forget fashion rules like classic cuts and basic black. Rachel Lutz said that these days, her customers at the Peacock Room, a special-occasion clothing store in Detroit, are looking to make a statement.

“Instead of, you know, buying a cute pair of sparkly earrings, buying, like, the biggest tiara that we have. People want color and pattern, and they want happiness,” she said.

Money may not buy happiness, but it can buy one-of-a-kind dresses — something Lutz’s customers want more of. That puts pressure on her to find special items, which is getting harder to do.

“Some of our dress vendors have really cut back on, you know, instead of showing us 200 dresses for the season, they’re showing us 40 or 50,” Lutz said.

Sales at the Peackcok Room are strong because people are so eager to shop, but Lutz worries that their flexibility, when it comes to color or style, won’t last forever.

“There’s just no room in the market right now for mediocre,” she said. “You really have to have great stuff for your customers.”

It’s the same story over at Gottwals Books, which has four stores in middle Georgia. Business has never been better, owner Shane Gottwals said. But he’s still worried about his biggest competitor, Amazon, because the new releases he orders are showing up weeks late.

“We just can’t get everything that we know we need … to keep our stores superrelevant and have the hottest and latest and greatest stuff,” he said.

The latest and greatest these days are cookbooks. Apparently, even this far into the pandemic, lots of people are still learning how to bake their own bread.

Sales have also been strong at the Brass Owl boutique in Queens, New York, although owner Nicole Panettieri said they’ve decreased 40% this week because of omicron. But compared to the other business owners in this story, she is much less affected by supply chain problems because the majority of what she sells is made in the U.S.

“A huge chunk of that is New York and Queens, and 100% everything going on makes me feel good about the strategy we have,” she said.

But Panettieri hasn’t dodged every supply chain bullet. This week she finally got Christmas ornaments that were supposed to arrive last year.

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