Small Business Owners Hit by Supply Chain Woes

Containers are stacked at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach in Calif., Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Ever day, Jeremy Plemons, the owner and chef behind a food truck in Maryland, asks himself, “What am I not going to be able to find today?”

Plemons told ABC News that in his six years running his own small food business, he has never encountered running low on essentials such as utensils and containers. He and other restaurant owners are doing their best to support each other by buying and sharing on each others behalf as they struggle to accommodate the supply chain crunch.  “It’s heartbreaking and stressful,” he said.

It’s not only big corporations and malls that are running low on everything from essentials such as plastic forks to luxury gifts such as perfumes. Small businesses are struggling with shortages as the supply chain convulsions make goods less accessible and more expensive. As smaller companies, they cannot compete with the bulk orders and higher prices that large corporations can offer.

According to a U.S. Census Small Business Pulse Survey, conducted between Oct. 11 and Oct. 17, 45% of businesses reported domestic supplier delays, up from 26.7% in January. The woes continue even after the pandemic decimated thousands of small businesses. According to a poll by Facebook and Small Business Roundtable, 16% of small to medium businesses in the U.S. were close in July 2021.

Ayman Omar, an associate professor of supply chain management at American University’s Kogod School of Business, told ABC News the supply chain crisis was the result of “the perfect storm” of problems converging, such as shipping industry delays, a lack of available trained truck drivers, and people stocking up in panic.

“The worst thing for a supply chain manager is inconsistency, getting 10 units one day 100 units the other day, drives supply chain managers insane,” he added. “Because a business is now ordering more of a product, another business might not get their product, it’s just a big domino effect.”

The Biden administration is trying to ease the issue by having West Coast ports run 24/7 and getting large national shipping companies to expand their hours, but those are limited repairs for a systemic issue. Omar said that the entire system has been pushed to the breaking point by the speed and supply consumers have come to expect from their shopping.

“The infrastructure is at its breaking point, in terms of being able to deal with demand and distribution of supply,” concluded Omar. “The massive amount of demand that has shot up over the last five to 10 years, capacity has not kept up.”