The holiday season is upon us, and small businesses across the country are facing a steep challenge. Unlike last year, the challenge isn’t lockdowns, reduced foot traffic, and low demand. This year, the challenge is the opposite: enormous demand amidst short supplies.
Yes, the same problem that consumers are facing, small businesses are facing, too. Everything from to-go carriers to plastic forks is in short supply, and small businesses are losing money simply because they can’t sell products or fulfill customer orders.
It’s a real headache, sure. And if you’re going to not only survive but grow your small business post-pandemic, you’ll want to spend some time rethinking your supply chain.
How to build a resilient supply chain
First, start with your current supplier. Or, if you get your supplies through a third party, find out who your supplier actually is. One of the easiest ways to reinforce your supply chain is simply to find the best supplier for your business.
If you sell, say, candles, and you’re short on wax, you want to be sure you’re working with a supplier who specializes in consumer candles. That might require you to network with businesses similar to yours, especially businesses that are thriving right now. In the case of candle wax, another candle retailer may help you discover a better supplier.
As you’re researching new suppliers, be sure to think local. One of the biggest reasons we’re short on supplies is that we’re shipping supplies on barges, which is taking longer to reach our shores. So, rather than getting your supply from the Netherlands or China, find a supplier in North America. Better yet, find a supplier in your province.
That may mean going with a supplier who charges a bit more for your goods. After all, most small businesses have a tendency to choose suppliers based on price, not geography. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that it may be wiser to go with the most local, even if labour is cheaper in foreign countries.
Creativity is a must, too. If you can’t create products based on supplies you can’t find, then try to use supplies that you can find. Or better yet — ask your customer to help. If you don’t have paper boxes for your carry-out bakery, for instance, offer your customers a small discount for bringing their own containers.
Finally, if you can’t change your supply chain, be sure you communicate frequently to your customer base. Letting your customers know you’re trying to meet their needs can go a long way for your brand. Build a digital network with email lists, social media, and an updated website, and be sure to let customers know when products arrive.