Last-minute shoppers choose Lakeland small businesses amid shipping delays, crowds

Polk County

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

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

Plum is a sister store to Top Buttons, an upscale thrift store next door. Proceeds go towards at-risk girls and young women.

When Teagan came to work Friday morning, there was a line of people outside, eagerly waiting for the store to open.

“We actually weren’t supposed to be open today but we’ve had such an influx of customers the last couple of days that we decided at the last minute to open up both the stores here in Lakeland,” said Teagan.

Teagan has been hearing from customers that 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 get their gift deliveries in time.

“There’s also, like, the shortage of gifts coming through. People aren’t receiving in time and so there’s just a lot of, I think, more last minute this year than there usually is,” said Teagan.

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

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

This week, President Joe Biden’s “Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force” reported bottlenecks had been cleared at the nation’s busiest ports.

“The much-predicted crisis didn’t occur. Packages are moving. Gifts are being delivered. Shelves are not empty,” President Biden said.

But at Lakeland’s Stationery Loft, co-owner Kerrianne Hopkins says supply chains are affecting not only her customers, but her business too.

“I think there’s a lot of back-ordering issues, I’m experiencing it myself in trying to order for the store. As you can see, we’re very empty,” said Hopkins.

Still, shoppers at her store are finding something special, something they cannot find at a big box store.

“It’s unique. You find something that I felt was a little more personal than just buying something off the shelf that there’s 40 of them sitting there,” said Donna Marquardt, a last minute shopper.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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