Last minute shoppers choose Lakeland’s small businesses amid shipping delays and crowds

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LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – With hours before gifts are snatched on Christmas morning, some shoppers are turning to local businesses after frustrating experiences with big box stores or shopping online.

“There’s a lot of rush at the end of the season this year,” said Melanie Teagan, manager of Plum, a clothing and accessories store in downtown Lakeland.

Plum is a sister store to Top Buttons, an upscale thrift store next door. Profits are donated to girls and young women at risk.

When Teagan came to work on Friday morning, there was a line of people outside, anxiously awaiting the store to open.

“Actually, we weren’t supposed to open today, but we’ve had such an influx of customers over the past few days that we decided at the last minute to open both stores here in Lakeland,” said Teagan.

Teagan has heard customers say they have had a busy year. Many have returned to work for the first time since the pandemic. Holiday shopping may have been put on the back burner.

Others, she said, simply did not receive their gifts on time.

“There’s also, like, the dearth of gifts coming in. People don’t get on time so there’s a lot more, I think, last minute this year than there usually is, ”said Teagan.

Small business owners are happy to step in and help put goodies under the tree.

“We have the Lakeland candle which – it’s from out of town, so I think she’ll like that,” said Meghan McGowan, who was shopping for last-minute gifts at the Stationery Loft. “We also try to avoid Amazon and it’s quite nice to be in some of the local stores.”

This week, President Joe Biden’s “Supply Chain Disruption Task Force” reported that bottlenecks have been removed at the country’s busiest ports.

“The long-awaited crisis did not happen. The packages are moving. The gifts are delivered. The shelves are not empty, ”President Biden said.

But at Lakeland’s Stationery Loft, co-owner Kerrianne Hopkins says supply chains affect not only her customers, but her business as well.

“I think there are a lot of backorder issues, I’m experiencing it myself when trying to order for the store. As you can see, we are very empty, ”said Hopkins.

Yet shoppers at her store find something special, something they can’t find in a big box store.

“It’s unique. You find something that seemed a little more personal to me than buying something off the shelf than there are 40 sitting there, ”said Donna Marquardt, a last minute buyer.


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