‘We’re facing a really uncertain holiday season’: Small businesses team up to thrive, not just survive, busy shopping season

EDMONTON –

The pandemic isn’t the only thing having an impact on small businesses this year.

“We’re facing a really uncertain holiday season,” said Claire Theaker-Brown, founder of local apparel company Unbelts.

“This year has been made kind of extra complicated because of the supply chain delays that we’re having.”

Getting the finished products or materials they needed to manufacture products became such a challenge, Theaker-Brown said they hired four part-time sewing staff locally.

“Normally we import about half our products. This year we’re manufacturing 90 per cent of our products right here at the end of the hall,” she said.

Supply issues are a problem for two other small businesses in the strip mall south of Old Strathcona.

“There have been some challenges getting fabrics in,” said Monique Miller, co-owner of Edmonton-based Former + Latter Fabrics, which just launched a month ago.

So far, getting products hasn’t been an issue at Kookum’s House, which uses organic and locally sourced cedar, sage, sweet grass and tobacco. Even the ceramics featured in the shop are bought from Alberta artists as a way to support other local entrepreneurs.

The problem Kookum’s House is having is finding packaging for their products.

“I think it had to do with panic buying from people who were using the same type of packaging and it’s understandable, everybody wanted to sustain themselves,” owner Delanie Bulldog said.

“We had to learn different ways that we could still continue the work that we were doing with what we had at hand.”

The three small businesses are facing the trifecta of obstacles together.

The fabric shop is offering a free-pattern to customers and ready-made products they can buy as gifts. One of those products, a toque, using scraps from Unbelts.

“We’re trying to be very low waste,” said Miller. “People like the idea of giving sustainably at Christmas so the idea is that these toques are made with very little waste and we’re using the off cuts from Unbelts, so that’s a great way for us to collaborate with them.”

The trio are also hosting a pop-up shop Tuesday through Saturday until Dec. 18.

“So many customers have been burned by shipping delays that this year more shoppers than ever are really wanting to shop in person and that’s new for us. We are normally a wholesale and an e-commerce business,” said Theaker-Brown.

“We’ve all banded together and we’re all inviting our friends, our family, our customers and hopefully we can support each other’s businesses,” she added.

It’s a show of teamwork the small businesses hope will lead to a successful holiday shopping season.

“We’ve had such a rough time over the last year and a half it feels so good to work with people towards something that’s good,” said Miller who is learning from the others about growing her new business.

“I think that in the long run it’s going to serve us better because we’ve survived it,” added Bulldog.

This Black Friday, CTV News Edmonton is shining the spotlight on local businesses facing unprecedented challenges. Watch CTV News for stories that help Edmontonians think outside big box stores. 

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