Inflation causes small businesses to grapple with changes

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Tina Corbett doesn’t know how much longer her art gallery and supply store will remain open in High Springs if costs continue to rise.

Corbett, 63, is trying to keep prices low at Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies. But the cost of some products has gone up 20% to 25% in recent months.

This is her retirement job, she said. She’ll stay open as long as the store pays for itself.

“I’m not that sad because I am at the end of my career, except for my regular art,” Corbett said. “This is fun, and I enjoy it, and I’ll keep doing it as long as people shop here.”

Tina Corbett's art gallery, which has suffered from recent inflation.
Tina Corbett says the costs of some products at her store, Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies in High Springs, have increased by as much as 25% because of inflation. (Meghan McGlone/WUFT News)

In the wake of the pandemic and resulting supply chain shortages, her store is one of many small businesses in north central Florida facing nationwide inflation caused by growing demand and waning supply.

 The Greater Gainesville Chamber doesn’t measure local data related to inflation. But the consumer price index, which measures average price changes over time, rose 7% nationally and 7.4% in the South in 2021.

Inflation increases the cost of doing business and reduces income, according to Staci Bertrand, the chamber’s vice president of economic development. That’s particularly exasperating for small businesses and their limited profit margins, Bertrand said.

This rise in inflation caused some of Florida’s 2.5 million small business owners to charge more for their services and products, change their strategies or slash their own incomes.

Paula King owns the Agapanthus gift store in both downtown Ocala and at Butler Town Center in Gainesville. Because she opened her Ocala location just before the Great Recession in 2008, King said knows how to weather a bad economic storm.

“As one thing improves, a new issue takes its place,” King said of COVID-19 and inflation. “But that’s just being in business.”

King has raised some prices and substituted various products, but she’s been slammed by surcharges and increased shipping costs from vendors. It’s all squeezing profits, she said.

Her dilemma: Should she charge more on items she’s carried for years or alter her inventory?

“Do I watch people fall over in the store? Are they literally going to get sticker shock?” King asked, “Or do I just cancel the order and say, ‘When this smooths out, I’ll go back at it.’”

Some businesses struggle with inflation, while others are adapting to the changing market. Trudy Yancey, 69, founded Your Heart’s Desire in Ocala in 1984. She recently decided which products to continue supplying for the gift shop and which to discontinue.

Yancey said business has improved recently, allowing her to keep her prices from rising.

“In the gift industry, for us, we’ve been very, very blessed,” she said.

Family Times Magazine in Ocala depends on ads from mostly local businesses to keep operating,  owner Kelli Hart said. The market for small business advertising is rich in Ocala, ranked No. 1 in midsize cities with the most small businesses in 2020.

But now, less businesses are buying ads, Hart said.

In every edition since March, the bimonthly magazine’s paper charge has gone up 6% to 8%. Because Family Times signed contracts with businesses before inflation hit, Hart said, she can’t raise ad prices. Now, the magazine is absorbing that cost increase.

“I think we are all in the same boat,” Hart said. “We’re all feeling the same feeling of overwhelming disappointment in what’s going on right now in our nation.”

Don Quincey's beef business has also suffered from inflation.
Haley Webb said she is thankful that customers have remained supportive of Quincey Cattle Co. in Chiefland through these difficult times. (Meghan McGlone/WUFT News)

Don Quincey, 65, owns Quincey Cattle Co. in Chiefland, Florida, which sells livestock and beef. A large portion of his business is feeding cattle and making deliveries across Florida.

Company officials said they normally retain about 25 employees, but that number has been down recently with labor so hard to come by.

The supply of cattle feed is up 20% to 30%, Quincey said.

His company has pushed some rising costs onto customers, but it hasn’t affected demand. He worries about the future, though. Are people stockpiling beef now before further increases?

“When does that stop?” Quincey said. “When do we fill up those freezers?”

Vitamins for the cows have gotten more expensive and harder to get, said Kayla Gonzales, 29, Quincey Cattle’s ranch inventory and health data manager.

However, even with inflation, the company has kept beef prices competitive and still has a strong customer base, said Haley Webb, 28, director of beef sales and marketing.

Thankfully, Webb said, customers are remaining supportive through the difficulties.

“We’re very blessed,” she said.

About Meghan McGlone

Meghan is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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