Alina Selyukh

Holiday shopping season is always high-stakes for Saxon Shoes in Virginia — a time when people shop for several pairs at once and splurge on pricy winter boots.

This year came with extra worries: Would shoppers return after a pandemic freeze? Would Saxon's shoes get snared in the supply chain mess? And then, the question that turned out to be key: Would there be enough workers?

For 35 years, the discount chain Dollar Tree committed to selling almost everything for $1. Time has come to pass the buck: Prices for most items will increase to $1.25.

Each year, the value of a dollar is eroded by inflation, making a dollar price commitment more difficult to maintain. Last month, inflation reached the highest rate since 1990.

Doug Kiersey has been building, buying and leasing warehouses for almost 40 years. He's never seen a time like this.

"It's completely unprecedented," says Kiersey, president of Dermody Properties, which owns warehouses used by some of the country's largest retailers. "In some markets ... we're over 99% occupancy."

In simplest terms, America's warehouses are running out of space. It's all claimed and bursting at the seams.

How did that happen?

It's a weird year and a weird economy. Has it shown up in your shopping cart? Is it changing how you plan to celebrate the holidays this year?

As our economics team prepares to cover the holiday shopping season, we want to hear your story, whatever your plans are. Please answer the questions below, and an NPR reporter may contact you for an interview.

Costco has raised its minimum U.S. wage to $17 an hour, and Starbucks will raise its starting pay to $15 an hour. They join a growing list of chains that have added new incentives, trying to keep their workers in a year of mass resignations and stepped-up labor organizing.

Mattress Firm, Claire's, Guitar Center — they're all recent bankruptcy survivors whose stores you might have passed in a mall, perhaps with their doors shuttered early in the pandemic.

But this year brought an unexpected, dramatic reversal, as these chains join a surprisingly long list of retailers who aim to find new life on the stock market, looking to go public.

If Santa is reading this, his sleigh and reindeer are urgently needed for help.

Toy-makers are warning of emptier shelves and pricier toys this holiday season. Their supplies are ensnarled in an unprecedented shipping crisis — floating traffic jams of container ships wallowing near key U.S. ports.

When Curtis McGill helped launch a small Texas toy company, he did not picture himself in this boat: up all night bidding eye-popping sums of money for space on a trans-Pacific ship.

People lick their fingers, touch money and hand it to you. They take money out of bras or hand you bills soaking wet with lake water. When you become a grocery cashier, says Rachel Baker, you quickly learn that retail is really filthy.

On a gray, dreary February day, Marguerite Adzick looked out on ice caps floating off a desolate beach along the Jersey Shore. The coronavirus was surging. Mass vaccinations had barely begun. And she had just told her investors she was about to sign a lease on her first brick-and-mortar clothing store.

"They were just, I think, speechless," says Adzick, whose store, Addison Bay, sells women's activewear. "I think me even saying it out loud ... was a little comical. But we ran the numbers. We knew it would work."

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Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama may get a second chance to vote on whether to form the company's first unionized warehouse in the United States.

A federal labor official has found that Amazon's anti-union tactics tainted this spring's election sufficiently to scrap its results, according to the union that sought to represent the workers. The official is recommending a do-over of the unionization vote, the union said in a release.

For a while there, it seemed like things were finally heading back to normal. Now, not so much.

In the span of just a week, plans for a September return to the office have been pushed back. Mask mandates have made a comeback. And a growing number of employers, including the federal government, are laying down the line on vaccines.

Updated April 9, 2021 at 1:28 PM ET

Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will not be forming a union.

The vast majority of votes cast by Amazon's workers in Bessemer, Ala., were against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in a stinging defeat of the union drive. The final tally showed 1,798 votes against unionizing and 738 votes in favor of the union.

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Costco plans to edge up its starting wage to $16 an hour starting next week, CEO W. Craig Jelinek said on Thursday, revealing plans that would propel his company ahead of most of its retail competitors.

As it turns out, January was for shopping.

Retail spending soared 5.3% last month compared to December, much more than anticipated, as U.S. families began receiving new federal coronavirus relief checks.

People bought more across the board last month, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday: furniture, electronics, clothes, sports equipment, restaurant food, groceries.

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would increase wages for at least 17 million people, but also put 1.4 million Americans out of work, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.

A phase-in of a $15 minimum wage would also lift some 900,000 out of poverty, according to the nonpartisan CBO. This higher federal minimum could raise wages for an additional 10 million workers who would otherwise make sightly above that wage rate, the study found.

Updated at 8:28 p.m. ET

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will step down as the company's chief executive officer this summer, after more than a quarter-century at the helm of the retail, logistics and tech powerhouse.

Even before Amazon built its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., local officials called it a game-changer.

The mayor said it was the largest single investment in the 130-year history of the city. Birmingham's working-class suburb is a shadow of the steel and mining hub it used to be. Amazon jobs, paying more than double the state's minimum wage of $7.25, promised a shot in the arm.

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Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

Restaurants and bars are reeling from persistent spikes of coronavirus cases and related restrictions in their communities, driving retail spending in December down for the third month in a row.

Before Amazon took down Parler, the messaging app favored by far-right activists, Amazon says it flagged dozens of instance of violent and hateful posts that Parler "systematically failed" to remove.

The two companies are facing off in court after Amazon's decision to stop hosting Parler took the website offline on Monday. Parler remained unavailable on Wednesday morning. Its app was also blocked by Google and Apple.

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A house. Two cars. A kid in college. Debi and Nick Lemieur had all the markers of a middle class life. But they both remember one purchase — Nick's $600 bass amplifier — that prompted one of the biggest fights in their four decades of marriage.

"He didn't tell me he hid it in the trunk of the car, and I found it," Debi says, laughing, 14 years later. "To me it was like, oh my God, how much will this screw with our budget?"

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All right, we're going to turn now to NPR's Alina Selyukh, who is in Philadelphia covering this latest news. Good morning, Alina.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Good morning.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

What is bread? You might as well ask, who's BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music? But Ireland's Supreme Court has considered the question raised by the case of a Subway sandwich. NPR's Alina Selyukh tore into this story.

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