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Yarn, amber, swimsuits? Weird things you might not find at stores as supply chain issues continue

Small businesses are facing unique challenges and get creative ahead of holiday shopping, including offering Black Friday deals throughout November.

MINNEAPOLIS — Computer chips, couches, even champagne.

We've heard about so many shortages of goods we use everyday and the supply chain issues that help stymie their arrival.

The Great Lakes is a Minnesota-inspired clothing line, that despite having its best year ever online last year, is having a hard time filling all those orders this year.

"It is still just a waiting game in terms of we don't know when it's going to get here," says co-owner Spencer Barrett.  

Persistent supply chain issues are taking a toll on small businesses like Barrett's, leaving some imported materials stuck on cargo ships or hard to find. 

Barrett says it's a struggle to get yarn to make mittens and amber candle holders. The swimsuits in his shop were delayed for two months and, while hanging on a rack now, are out of season.

"As a small business, we pivot daily," said Barrett. "However, it does force us to get creative."

Barrett will now offer Black Friday deals all next month and plans to open his warehouse to customers before Christmas. He'll also rely a lot on pre-orders.

"We can produce less waste because we’re making exactly how many things people want and we can guarantee if someone wants something for the holidays, we can give it to them," explained Barrett.

But experts say all of that can be very demanding on small businesses. 

"Because it's not a whole fleet of employees trying to address all these challenges; it's usually a few individuals," says University of St. Thomas Professor Kyle Goldschmidt. He studies supply chain disruptions, calling this one "unprecedented".

A new U.S. Census survey found 45% of businesses are experiencing delays.

But Goldschmidt says some of it is avoidable.

"Companies and specifically small businesses, if they source locally, produce locally, they're less likely to be impacted," said the professor. 

Heading into the holidays, Goldschmidt says your favorite things likely won't be in short supply. That's because retailers anticipated the demand and over-ordered products.

But while that means fewer empty shelves - all that inventory is putting a strain on the supply chain system, only adding to the problems right now. 

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