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From toys to custom bikes, these small businesses are still seeing shipment delays

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A pedestrian carrying a shopping bag in San Francisco.

A shopper on a stroll in San Francisco. Retailers have begun preparing for the holidays, but supplies of some items are uncertain. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Retail sales were relatively unchanged from June to July, according to monthly data from the Census Bureau, suggesting that consumers kept buying while gasoline prices dropped. But how well does the headline number match up with what businesses are experiencing on the ground?

“Marketplace” checked back in with three small businesses across the country to get a firsthand look at how the retail economy is doing. One trend: Supply chain problems are still an obstacle as demand picks up.

To listen to each person’s story, use the media player above.

Eric Vaughn, owner of Eric’s I’ve Been Framed in Detroit

“It’s been so busy that we had to move to doing appointments only,” said Eric Vaughn, owner of Eric’s I’ve Been Framed in Detroit. “Our supply chain has been really difficult. I had a job for a quilt, and the quilt was really huge. We were going to frame it, and we couldn’t find any Plexiglas big enough. We discussed it with the artist, and the artist decided she would cut the quilt down without compromising the integrity of the quilt, and we were able to acquire a Plexiglas.”

Eric Vaughn with the framed quilt. (Courtesy Vaughn)

Diane Jenks, bike fitter at HubBub Bicycles in Kirtland, Ohio

“Some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue,” said Diane Jenks, who is a bike fitter at her husband’s custom bike business, HubBub Bicycles in Kirtland, Ohio, as well as host of the “Outspoken Cyclist” podcast. “If parts are available, business is good,” Jenks said. “If you’re being told parts are six months to a year out, business can be very scary right now.”

Diane Jenks’ custom tandem bike. (Courtesy Jenks)

Irene Kesselman, owner of Ali Cat Toys in Carrboro, North Carolina

For Irene Kesselman, owner of Ali Cat Toys in Carrboro, North Carolina, the end of summer means preparations for the holiday shopping season are well underway. But she’s still finding some products difficult to source. “We’ve ordered some beautiful wrapping paper, and we are trying to get some ribbon to correspond with the paper, and we are having a time and a half trying to get ribbon shipped to us,” said Kesselman. “We are a little bit behind on making bows. We actually start making bows in July, so in that case, I don’t feel prepared, but merchandisewise I do feel prepared.”

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