Sterling Heights stores hold out hope for strong shopping season

Labor shortages, inflation on businesses’ minds

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 24, 2021

  Bench designer Wes Hannosh works on jewelry.

Bench designer Wes Hannosh works on jewelry.

Photo by Deb Jacques

  A custom-made engagement ring is an example of jewelry made by Solari & Co.

A custom-made engagement ring is an example of jewelry made by Solari & Co.

Photo by Deb Jacques

STERLING HEIGHTS — Isaac Hannosh is hoping that this year’s holiday shopping season will ring in better fortunes than the last one.

Hannosh, the owner of the Solari & Co. jewelry store in Sterling Heights, held his store’s grand opening in July 2021. He said running a business in the shadow of COVID-19 has been “a struggle,” as it limited foot traffic.

However, he said he is hopeful he can offer shoppers a good deal amid recent economic trends, particularly with rising inflation and supply chain issues seen in some other sectors, such as “electronics and Amazon.com stuff.”

“We hope that people lean more into jewelry for gift giving,” Hannosh said. “I kind of hope to see an influx of people realizing that small businesses like ours don’t suffer from supply chain issues. We fabricate our own jewelry.”

Hannosh added that precious metals have been relatively resilient in the face of inflation elsewhere.

“Metal prices have been stable. It’s been a good way to purchase and invest, as well, because the metal markets have been very stable despite inflation — gold and silver and platinum — even during the brunt of the pandemic. We’re not having to price anything higher because of COVID.”

Solari & Co. is just one example of local businesses that are getting the spotlight as Small Business Saturday approaches. Small Business Saturday is an annual awareness campaign championed by American Express that encourages Americans to shop at small businesses, particularly during the holiday season. This year, the day is observed Nov. 27.

Stacy Ziarko, the president and CEO of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce, mentioned some of the topics and issues that local businesses are facing this holiday season. She said she hasn’t heard much about supply chain issues from her chamber members. When it comes to inflation, Ziarko said, some local restaurants have mentioned the rising price of food ingredients as a concern.

“I think a lot of our restaurants were waiting to see how long inflation was going to last,” she said, adding that one restaurant was “saying that they went from 80 cents a pound to now $3 a pound for chicken.”

However, more businesses are still struggling to find talent to hire for their workforce, prompting them to offer signing bonuses, retention bonuses and more, Ziarko said.

“A couple of our members said we made it through the worst part, but we’re seeing staffing issues because kids are going back to college,” she said.  “I think that’s our biggest issue.”

As a result, holiday shoppers should not be surprised to see reduced hours of operation at some stores compared to previous seasons.

“We’re still hearing it from retail,” she said. “Some of our retail locations had to change their hours, 11-7 instead of 10-9. We expect consumers will have to adjust to it, as well. Maybe stores aren’t open for extended hours like they used to be because maybe they don’t have the manpower to do it.”

In an Oct. 21 Facebook post, Mayor Michael Taylor said he recently had dinner with U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, as well as the mayors of Detroit, Rochester Hills and Ferndale. Taylor said they talked about labor shortages and their effects on local businesses.     
“As a former mayor himself, Secretary Walsh understands how important it is to our economy to get back to full labor participation as soon as possible,” Taylor said. “It was a great bipartisan conversation, and I am optimistic that the Biden administration understands the importance of getting people back to work for our economy.”

Ziarko encouraged metro Detroiters to participate in the Shop Local Macomb campaign, which she said runs Nov. 18-Dec. 5. The campaign asks shoppers to visit a favorite local participating business and take a picture of themselves shopping and buying something. Then the shopper submits the photo on MakeMacombYourHome.com and shares it on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ShopLocalMacomb, Ziarko said.

Shoppers who submit an entry get a chance to win one of ten $150 gift cards from First State Bank, and businesses featured in submissions may also get one of 10 $1,000 grants, Ziarko said.

“It’s a great opportunity to support our local businesses,” she added.

The Michigan Retailers Association’s retail index, which judges retailers’ economic sentiments, is a joint effort between the MRA and the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The MRA said the index score that looks toward December showed a “strong” prediction of 68.4 out of 100, with a score over 50 being positive. Out of surveyed state retail respondents, 56% thought their sales would increase, and only 20% predicted a decrease, the organization explained.  

“We hope to see it accurately play out as strong, or stronger, in the coming months,” the MRA said in a statement. “It’s important to shop at your local stores, not only to support the vital pieces of your downtown, but to ensure that you’ll have items under the tree in time.”

In a statement, MRA President and CEO William J. Hallan said many stores are trying to get shoppers to succeed at obtaining what’s on their lists by shopping as soon as possible.

“Retailers are being hit with a number of curveballs right now. They continue to face hiring challenges, supply chain issues and price increases — not exactly the position you want to be in as the biggest shopping period of the year approaches,” Hallen said.

When it came to inflation, the MRA added that one respondent witnessed “double-digit price increases from suppliers,” and a different respondent said they have been changing item prices frequently on Mondays.

That inflation could make the secondhand market for gifts more appealing, according to Dani Estep, Grace Centers of Hope’s thrift stores director and Sterling Heights store manager. Estep said people do purchase Christmas gifts from the organization’s four thrift stores yearly, adding that decor is “hands down” the most popular type of merchandise sold.

Estep said the clientele’s willingness to spend for Christmas depends on local demographics, including socioeconomic status and religious affiliation. But she said she expects thrift stores to get more business this Christmas season.

“Inflation means people need to be more frugal with their money,” Estep said. “We offer gently used items for a fraction of retail cost. We even have new items at times.

“The supply chain is actually increasing our demand for appliances. It impacts us most through the costs of our plastic bags, paper goods and wholesale business costs.”

Learn more about Solari & Co. in Sterling Heights by visiting www.solariandcompany.com or by calling (248) 982-0039. For more information about the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce, visit www.shrcci.com or call (586) 731-5400. Find out more about the Michigan Retailers Association by visiting retailers.com. Find out more about Grace Centers of Hope by visiting www.gracecentersofhope.org. Find a map of local small businesses on American Express’s Shop Small website by visiting www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small.