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Kansas retailers anticipate supply chain disruptions through the holidays

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Elyse Kelly | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – As the holiday shopping season draws closer, Kansas retailers are still struggling with a log-jammed supply chain and labor shortages.

The National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) survey for September found that half of the Sunflower State’s businesses are experiencing supply chain disruptions, which is up 32% from two months previous, and another half report that disruptions are worse than three months ago.

Dan Murray, NFIB’s state director for Kansas, said the problems are real at a local business level, and they expect disruptions to continue for the next five months or more.

“That obviously takes us through the important holiday/Christmas shopping season,” he told The Center Square. “Whether real or not, our small business owners are feeling or anticipating nearly 90% supply chain disruptions for the next five/six months.”

Labor is another problem heading into the holidays, Murray noted.

“A record 51% of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill in September,” he said. “And that’s up one point from August, which was a new record high in August.”

Both skilled and unskilled labor is hard to find, although he noted skilled workers are particularly difficult to find currently. Among the skilled trades, construction tends to have the highest vacancies, according to Murray.

And this lack of staff is leading to measurable losses.

Of those small employers currently suffering a staffing shortage, the survey found 25% of those are experiencing a significant loss of sales opportunities, and 27% saw a moderate loss of sales opportunities from vacant jobs, according to Murray.

“Because of the fact that we’re unable to fill these critical positions in our small business sector, we’re losing out on opportunity to make retail sales and services sales in this economy, leaving money on the table essentially because we don’t have enough employees to help meet the demand,” he said.

Murray expects to see these trends in the data from October as well.

Businesses are operating leaner, doing more with less, Murray added.

“It’s putting a strain on the workforces these small businesses have,” he said.

To attract workers, small businesses are offering retention bonuses, higher wages and higher benefits, according to Murray.

Trying to compete with bigger retailers like Amazon, small businesses are upping their online presence as well, he said.