Eugene-Springfield retailers hope to capitalize on online shipping delays this holiday season

·6 min read

With global shipping delays taking a toll 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 think one factor in their favor is shoppers craving more in-person experiences as the COVID-19 pandemic relaxes.

"I think customers are really tired of talking to computers and emails, and the connection of a person to person transaction is more fulfilling," said Benjamin Terrell, owner of the movie, video game and music store Epic Seconds in downtown Eugene.

"I think that's also probably just being a little stir-crazy from wanting to do things that make make us feel normal."

In some ways the pandemic has been helpful to business at Epic Seconds, Terrell said. Since more people have been stuck inside their homes with not as many in-person services, Terrell thinks it led to more people wanting to buy movies and games to entertain themselves.

Epic Seconds owner Benjamin Terrell stands next to his shelves of music CDs, DVDs and video games in downtown Eugene.
Epic Seconds owner Benjamin Terrell stands next to his shelves of music CDs, DVDs and video games in downtown Eugene.

Radar Toys owner Richard Goosmann, however, said he thinks the increase of shoppers is just as much a result of supply issues.

This is the earliest Goosmann's seen holiday shoppers than in any year prior, and he said he's had noticeably more online shoppers. The U.S. Postal Service delaying some deliveries earlier than usual in the season also has been a challenge, he said, making it tough shipping orders to customers on time.

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

Unlike larger retailers that source from a small number of suppliers, Goosmann said Radar Toys is unique in that it sources its toys from 60 vendors, allowing them to be more agile when it comes to product offerings.

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

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Roy said organizers for the market, which opened for its first day last weekend, are looking forward to more customers possibly visiting to escape online shipping delays, and noted many of its vendors offer online sales if people prefer that.

"We're hoping that as people are wondering about shipping delays that they will find a little bit of solace knowing they can just come to Holiday Market and find a whole lot of things," Roy said.

In interviews with The Register-Guard, local business owners and managers said they also hope to capitalize on drawing shoppers who are looking for items that are either unique to Oregon or have been made in Lane County using eco-friendly materials. At the Holiday Market, for example, people can find locally created products made with Oregon driftwood, or items honoring the Sasquatch, which has become a Pacific Northwest icon.

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 customers can feel good knowing many of the store items are made locally, benefit local workers and provides an in-person social interaction.

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"In so many ways, we're all kind of starved for that social interaction," she said. "I think retail therapy is maybe coming to ... a new importance in our life."

The store, which focuses on reusable and sustainable items, found one of its most popular items during the pandemic is its UNpaper Towels and Toilet UNpaper, which are made out of cotton and allow people to wash and reuse them. McNabb said the store has been happy to fill a niche for people who want to buy reusable items.

"Like everyone, we've had to pivot and meet our customers where they're at through this crisis," McNabb said. "Reusable goods and sustainable-minded products — people are looking for those."

Some local retailers report being hurt by the shipping delays for products, especially for items from overseas. Terrell at Epic Seconds said he has been taking the delays into consideration when ordering products and making sure to bolster inventory if there's a certain movie or CD that's a limited edition.

At the Mosaic Fair Trade Collection store in downtown Eugene, owner Liisa John said she had to discontinue 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.
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, also had its supply impacted by countries with COVID-19 vaccine shortages, John said.

"We're in countries that haven't had as much access to vaccines and that has slowed down production for people, since they've not been able to work as much," John said.

"I haven't heard people say 'I can't find this or that or the other thing,' but what I do know is that I can't source some of the things that I normally have in the store."

Through the pandemic, John said she's heard from other countries she sources from about how their communities are struggling, either because of the virus or other reasons such as violence or natural disasters. She noted a lot of her products are made by women who were rescued from human trafficking or are at risk of entering it.

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In Springfield, small businesses have been doing a “darn good job” at obtaining enough product for the holidays despite challenges with shipping delays, according to Vonnie Mikkelsen, president and CEO of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“For the most part, our small businesses, they've been dealing with so many challenges and had to be very responsive and adaptable, and move and try and predict in the most difficult events and circumstances, so they're doing a darn good job of finding product and are ready,” Mikkelsen said.

John added that while there have been some supply challenges, the community has been overall supportive when it comes to people wanting to help local businesses and stores such as hers, and especially during the last holiday season.

"Especially downtown, it was really nice to see people eating at the restaurants, shopping at the stores that are down here, and, you know, really showing support and, and vocalizing it."

Louis Krauss covers breaking news for The Register-Guard. Contact him at lkrauss@registerguard.com or 541-521-2498, and follow him on Twitter @LouisKraussNews.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Local retailers hope to capitalize on holiday online shipping delays

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