Small businesses compete with big box stores for inventory

With three months until Christmas, local shops say they’ve been preparing for the holiday season as early as July.

For Butte retailers, getting shipments is proving to be a struggle, as big box stores take priority.

“We’re at the end of the supply chain, especially small businesses,” said Jon Wick, owner of 5518 Designs in Butte.

When production slows, so do orders and shipments.

For 5518 Designs, a small retail shop in Uptown Butte, they are seeing the problem firsthand as they continue to compete with larger stores for inventory.

“It’s a global economy,” said Wick. “Even though we want to shop local, there’s different rules with every step of the supply chain. When one delays, the whole thing delays. The demand came back really quickly, but the production didn’t catch up with that demand initially when the world started to open back up.”

The Census Bureau reports Americans spent over $25 million this August on clothing stores — up $7 million, 38%, from last year.

For Montana, retail sales increased by 28% overall. It’s a figure higher than the national average.

With the holidays coming, Wick notes they plan to prepare for another increase in demand.

“The holiday shopping season is really important for us,” he said. “We do a lot of our business there.”

The holiday season makes up around a quarter of all sales throughout the year, so for small shops like 5518 Designs and other local businesses in Butte, it’s important to have the stock.

“I’m always, every single day, preparing for worst-case scenario,” Wick said. “I’ve been working hard to kind of figure out some plan Bs and plan Cs, even as far as products go.”

Walls inside his shop are full of clothing, stickers and novelty items, but he noted that when the holidays come, they may be looking at a different story.

“Who knows if we can make reorders in that time,” Wick said.

Owners say shopping local helps keep small businesses from being boxed out in the international market.

“Shop local first, shop local second,” said Wick. “You’d be surprised what we have here in town just walking around.”