As the holiday shopping season revs up, things continue to go downhill for small businesses across the Garden State, and nobody is expecting conditions to improve anytime soon.

Eileen Kean, the New Jersey state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the latest NFIB Optimism Index report finds smaller businesses continue to struggle to find enough workers, pay them higher salaries and keep in-demand items on store shelves because of the supply chain disruption crisis.

“I was recently at a member’s store and he has a great contract that he can’t fill because he can’t get products he needs to deliver on a contract,” she said.

She said all different kinds of mom-and-pop stores are facing this same problem, and this is leading to frustration among shoppers looking to find all kinds of things.

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“You might have to switch your toilet paper brand this week just because the supply isn’t there, so sadly it’s going to be a difficult season,” said Kean.

The survey found the number of small business owners expecting conditions to improve over the next 6 months fell 4 points to a net negative 37%. The indicator has declined 17 points over the past 3 months and is now at its lowest level in nine years.

Kean said many business owners have a negative outlook because of the labor shortage, supply chain issues and “it’s also the unknown of where New Jersey is going in terms of this pandemic, we’re already hearing stories that the pandemic is going to spike again over the winter months.”

“Businesses are upset: it’s impacting businesses feelings for where they’re going to go, what their gross is going to be, it’s just a very pessimistic time.”

Kean pointed out the supply disruptions are coming at the worst possible time of year because “the money that a small business makes during the holiday season, that’s really what carries them for the year, that’s the hit, the annual hit.”

She said if these businesses don’t do well during the holidays, it negatively impacts their annual budgets and overall financial well-being, which is already on shaky ground.

So what can be done to improve the situation?

She said if you value the local shops in your community, now is the time to let them know.

“Let’s urge people to support these small businesses because they are what provide the character and attraction and make your hometown beautiful,” she said.

“Don’t just walk by the store, go inside and spend a little money and be a little less lazy, stop with the online shopping and go support Main Street.”

The survey also found a net negative 4% of all owners reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, down seven points from September. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes decreased by two points to a net 0%.

The frequency of reports of positive profit trends decreased three points to a net negative 17%.

Among owners reporting lower profits, 31% blamed the rise in the cost of materials, 25% blamed weaker sales, 9% cited labor costs, 9% cited the usual seasonal change, 6% cited lower prices, and 3% cited higher taxes or regulatory costs.

For owners reporting higher profits, 56% credited sales volumes, 17% cited usual seasonal change, and 11% cited higher prices.

The overall NFIB Optimism Index for October dropped by 0.9 points to 98.2. A total of 10 components were considered and 7 declined, 2 stayed the same and 1 of the 10 components improved.

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