Local Retailers Stock Up for the Holidays

Valley businesses anticipate a big shopping season and recommend buying early

By Skye Lucas
Snow bikes for sale at Wheaton's Cycle in Kalispell on Oct. 29, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

After a year of shortages and, on rare occasion, empty shelves, local retailers are stocking up for the final quarter of 2021 that includes the busy holiday season. Despite some potential challenges to meet demand, last year taught local businesses to react and adapt to their new reality.

Valley retailers are ordering items long in advance and encouraging customers to shop earlier and join waitlists. 

Up to 77% of ports worldwide are experiencing delays. Inventory levels reached a record low this year, too, and sales are increasing faster than most companies’ ability to replenish supplies. 

Imagination Station owner Denise Magstadt noticed faster shipments from national manufacturers than international, mostly located in China. Magstadt anticipated delays, ordering a lot toys during the summer, most of which are restocked. That is, except for Corolle baby dolls. Its French manufacturer notified her that the dolls are likely sitting at a harbor in California waiting to be unloaded. 

A toy mammoth and other animals on display at Imagination Station toy store in Kalispell Oct. 29, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

At Stumptown Snowboards, personnel manager EJ Havens says American-made products, such as many of its snowboards, have arrived on time.  

“Inventory wise we’ve had good luck and have gotten mostly everything we wanted, but shipping times are delayed with overseas products,” said Havens. 

The store, however, has not yet received winter gear that is manufactured overseas, such as boots. For Havens, national and international shipping costs have gone up significantly in the last year and a half. Air, ocean and trucking freight quotes are several times more expensive than they were pre-pandemic. 

Gear selection typically dwindles down by New Year’s Day, but many local gear shops were unprepared for the spike in ski rental demand last year. 

“There were a few times when the whole town was out of rentals.” Havens said. 

In the windows of Wheaton’s in downtown Kalispell bikes currently on display were ordered a year ago. The bike shortage has delayed production across the industry and off-season shopping is something cyclists will need to get used to.

Winter jackets at Rocky Mountain Outfitter in Kalispell on Oct. 29, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

“We’ve seen bikes on back order for as long as 15 months, it’s not uncommon” said Wheaton’s owner Hans Axelsen.

A new shipment of about 12 fat tire bikes arrived at the store, but Axelsen says they won’t last long. He added that cyclists should prepare to purchase other bikes six months in advance.

“I’ll have the best mountain bike selection in the middle of this winter,” Axelsen said. “Parts, too, are far and few in between. You don’t want to break your derailer or chain.” 

At Glacier Cyclery and Nordic, sales manager Raser Powell says orders for the 2021-22 ski season doubled from last year to accommodate the increase in rental demands. 

“That being said, we already know there is a about a quarter of the stuff we won’t get,” Powell said. “But we’re lucky, given how busy it was and will be. We’re looking forward to that this year.”

Inventory shortages stymied sales last winter season. And Powell says his shop is not the only one in Whitefish that increased their gear orders to avoid revenue losses.  

As the store waits for its fat tire bike shipment, Powell recommends that those wanting to buy the bike, or any bike, should inquire ahead of time before it hits the shelves. 

In an industry with little predictability, retailers in the valley have forecasted a big holiday shopping season. One way to avoid shipping delays plaguing online retailers is to shop local. 

“Think of the small stores first,” said Magstatd from Imagination Station. “Locals will not be disappointed when they shop for Christmas with us.” 

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