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Small businesses cite inflation concerns as holiday shoppers spend more than ever

Downtown Rhinelander, Inc. Facebook

From Black Friday to Small Business Saturday and now Cyber Monday, the holiday shopping season is in full swing.

The National Retail Federation expected more than 166 million shoppers to hit the stores between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, more shoppers than any other year since the NRF started tracking data in 2017.

Already, Adobe Analytics reports Black Friday online sales surpassed $9 billion to set another record.

But big box retailers weren’t alone in hoping for high spending.

After months of high inflation, small business owners were hopeful people would choose to shop local too.

“Small businesses, those are the businesses that help support the local sports teams and the local attractions that come into town,” says Tom Barnett, a local artist and owner of Tom’s Drawing Board in downtown Rhinelander.

The holidays tend to be a good time of year for Barnett’s business.

“We had a bunch of people in already this morning,” he says on Black Friday. “They’re looking for Christmas gifts and doing their duty supporting small businesses and finding homemade stuff that really means something.”

But this year, he’s feeling the pinch of inflation as the cost of art supplies continues to rise.

“I’m trying to not raise my prices for as long as I possibly can,” he says. “So far, I’m able to do that, but we’ll see where the future goes unfortunately. If you can’t pay the rent, you can’t have a business.”

Down the street, Jaron Childs, owner of Childs Frame Company, is in a similar position.

“You can swallow some,” he says. “But if prices on everything are going up everywhere, that means everything I buy goes up too.”

He hopes concerns about inflation won’t overshadow the spirit — or spending — of the season.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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