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Small businesses navigate inflation during the holidays

The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales growth will slow to a range of 6% to 8%, compared to 13.5% a year ago.

DENVER — Small Business Saturday in Denver saw customers filling up their favorite local stores, and that included Mouthfuls pet shop on Tennyson. 

"In general, this time of the year, we do have a lot more people and it's partially due to people being in town, visiting family and stuff like that," said assistant manager Gabrielle Muehling. 

But acknowledging the price of goods lately, she said, has been key to adapting to inflation that is impacting not only customers, but businesses too. 

The National Retail Federation projects holiday sales growth will slow to a range of 6% to 8%. A year ago, the growth was 13.5%.

Across the Denver Metro, the price of goods overall are up 7.7% compared to a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But businesses like Mouthfuls have been working to keep customers happy this holiday season. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
Mouthfuls on Tennyson Street in Denver during Small Business Saturday.

Adjusting is key

Muehling explained that pretty much everything in the store is a brand where the products are made in small batches, or are produced by local vendors. 

"Which is kind of cool because it's not mass produced either and the majority are also wholesale only. So they only sell through small stores like ourselves, not big box stores," she said.

While she believes it means the quality of the products is secure, prices are a little more subject to change. 

"I think the biggest difference is just that with the big box stores, since they can do case deals which we get sometimes as well, but you know, storage is limited. We're a little store and because of that, we just can't do things at the same rate as a big box store most of the time," she said. "So because of that, yeah, our margins are more set most of the time."

However, she said they're better able to prepare for any changes that come down from their partners, vendors or distributors since they have a closer relationship with them. 

"I think that we definitely want to remain accessible to everyone. And part of the whole purpose for me and working in this industry is to help not only the client, but their animals as well," she said. "The biggest message I would just want to come across to the consumer base is that we don't have as much control over the price of things overall, but we do make sure that we carry everything that's good and appropriate for the customers. So I think that the peace of mind of shopping here and knowing that there's no wrong answer necessarily."

Credit: Mark Zoleta
Gabrielle Muehling, Assistant Manager at Mouthfuls.

State supply chain and inflation

Online Black Friday sales are expected to set a new record, topping 9 billion dollars, according to CNBC.

People still lined up outside stores, with an estimated 166 million in-person shoppers. 

In Denver, shoppers seemingly skipped the early morning lines. Cherry Creek shopping center said its shopping rush was between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., according to our partners at the Denver Gazette.

Mac Clouse, a finance professor with the University of Denver, acknowledges that there have been improvements in supply chain, but he expects the prices of goods to remain high. 

"But the grocery stores is where consumers really feel the bite of inflation and they need to make sure that they budget into to get through those challenges," he said. 

When it comes to small businesses, he also adds that he believes big box retailers will have an easier time handling the impacts of inflation. 

"They've just got more resources and so they can play around with pricing a bit more than that. Then the small businesses, the small businesses have to make sure they're covering all their costs. And it's tougher for them," he said. 


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