Online shipping

Local retailers hope to take advantage of online shipping delays over the holidays

As global shipping delays weigh on online shopping plans, Eugene-area retailers are hoping to take advantage of an expected increase in local shopping this holiday season.

Small business owners said they believe a factor in their favor is shoppers seeking more in-person experiences as the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

“I think customers are really tired of talking to computers and email, and connecting a person-to-person transaction is more satisfying,” said Benjamin Terrell, owner of the movie, video game and video game store. Epic Seconds music venue in downtown Eugene.

“I think it’s also probably just being a little crazy to want to do things that make us feel normal.”

In some ways, the pandemic has been helpful to Epic Seconds’ businesses, Terrell said. As more people are stuck inside their homes with fewer in-person services, Terrell thinks this has led to more people wanting to buy movies and games for entertainment.

Radar Toys owner Richard Goosmann, however, said he believed the surge in buyers was just as much the result of supply issues.

These are the first holiday shoppers seen by Goosmann than in any previous year, and he said he has noticeably more online shoppers. The U.S. Postal Service delaying some deliveries earlier than usual in the season has also been a challenge, he said, making it difficult to ship orders to customers on time.

“In our 11 years of online sales, this year and last year are an anomaly for shopping behaviors,” he said.

Unlike large retailers who source from a small number of suppliers, Goosmann said Radar Toys is unique in that it sources from 60 suppliers, allowing them to be more nimble in regarding product offerings.

One group excited about a return to more normalcy this holiday season is the Eugene Holiday Market, which is being held inside the Lane Events Center after being outside last year due to COVID-19. This year, the number of vendors has increased from about 100 to 300, according to Vanessa Roy, marketing manager for Eugene’s Saturday and holiday markets.

Roy said organizers of the market, which opened last weekend, are looking forward to more customers eventually visiting to escape shipping delays online, and noted that many of his vendors are offering online sales if people prefer that.

“We hope that as people wonder about shipping delays, they find some comfort in knowing that they can just come to the Holiday Market and find a lot of stuff,” Roy said.

In interviews with The Register-Guard, local business owners and executives said they also hope to tap into design shoppers who are looking for items unique to Oregon or made in Lane County at the using environmentally friendly materials. At the Holiday Market, for example, people can find locally created products made from Oregon driftwood, or items honoring the Sasquatch, who has become an icon of the Pacific Northwest.

At Marley’s Monsters Eco-Shop, now located at the Fifth Street Public Market, manager Grace McNabb said one draw to shopping close to home is that customers can feel good knowing that many of the store’s items are made locally, benefit local workers and provide social interaction of the person.

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“In many ways, we’re all kind of starving for that social interaction,” she said. “I think retail therapy is maybe taking on…a new importance in our lives.”

The store, which focuses on reusable and durable items, has found one of its most popular items during the pandemic to be its UNpaper towels and UNpaper toilet paper, which are made from cotton and allow people to wash them and reuse them. McNabb said the store was happy to fill a niche for people wanting to buy reusable items.

“Like everyone else, we’ve had to pivot and meet our customers where they are during this crisis,” McNabb said. “Reusable goods and durable products – people are looking for them.”

Some local retailers report being penalized by product shipping delays, especially for items arriving overseas. Epic Seconds’ Terrell said he takes delays into account when ordering products and makes sure to back up inventory if there’s a certain limited-edition movie or CD.

At the Mosaic Fair Trade Collection store in downtown Eugene, owner Liisa John said she had to stop selling furniture recently because it never arrived from cargo ships in Indonesia.

Mosaic Fair Trade Collection owner Liisa John stands with a masked llama outside her store in downtown Eugene.

The store, which sources products from developing countries and members of the Fair Trade Federation, has also seen its supply affected by countries experiencing shortages of COVID-19 vaccines, John said.

“We’re in countries that haven’t had as much access to vaccines and it’s slowed down production for people because they haven’t been able to work as much,” John said.

“I haven’t heard people say ‘I can’t find this or that or the other’, but what I do know is that I can’t get some of the things I normally have in the store .”

Throughout the pandemic, John said she has heard from other countries she sources from about how their communities are struggling, either because of the virus or for other reasons such as violence. or natural disasters. She noted that many of her products are made by women who have been rescued from or are at risk of entering human trafficking.

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According to Vonnie Mikkelsen, president and CEO of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, in Springfield, small businesses have done a “really good job” of getting enough produce for the holidays despite the challenges of shipping delays.

“For the most part, our small businesses have had to deal with so many challenges and have had to be very reactive and adaptable, and move around and try to plan through the most difficult events and circumstances, so they are doing a damn good job of find the product and are ready,” Mikkelsen said.

John added that although there have been supply issues, the community has generally been supportive of people wanting to help local businesses and stores like his, and particularly over the past holiday season.

“Especially downtown, it was really nice to see people eating in the restaurants, shopping in the stores that are here and, you know, really showing their support and vocalizing it.”

Louis Krauss covers breaking news for The Register-Guard. Contact him at [email protected] or 541-521-2498, and follow him on Twitter @LouisKraussNews.