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Retailers at the Tipping Point

AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy
In this photo taken Friday, June 5, 2020, a man talks on the phone in front of a closed Macy's store in the tourist district of Waikiki in Honolulu.

Nearly a year into the Covid-19 experience, Hawaii's retail sector finds itself on the tipping point.


Robbie Melton, Kauai director of the Hawaii Small Business Development Center tells PBN that nearly half of that island’s businesses owners expect to go out of business in the next 90 days without a significant return of tourism.

The stat comes from a December survey conducted by the Kauai Chamber of Commerce. Says Melton, the nearly $18  billion in revenue that tourism brought Hawaii in 2019 is long gone, and so is money from last year’s CARES Act and new relief has yet to materialize. “We’re now at a real tipping point,” she says.

Retailers that have been hanging on include those that have been able to grow their online presence — starting one, if they haven’t already, or increasing how much of their stock they show. This has facilitated both online sales and customers paying in advance to pick up items without having to go into the store.

The online picture has changed radically, even for established brands like Crazy Shirts. President Scott Maroney said that 10 years ago, just 2% of its sales were online, now it’s 90%. The problem is, that 10% of shirts sold in person is a fraction of what it normally would be and online sales aren’t making up the difference.

For people daring to start a retail business now, pop-up stores are the optimal solution, renting a temporary space to test out their concept and hone their product mix and skills before undertaking the expense of a permanent store.

The general managers of Kahala Mall and Ala Moana Shopping Center tell PBN they’re actively seeking pop-ups, to support these businesses and fill some of their empty space.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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