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Hawaiʻi retailers challenged by issues with workers and supply chains

Help Wanted
Matt Rourke/AP
A help wanted sign is posted on a restaurant in Media, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

You’ve heard about labor shortages and supply chain issues, but how are Hawaiʻi retailers experiencing those challenges right now?

In a Pacific Business News roundtable discussion on the retail industry, Tina Yamaki, President of Retail Merchants Hawaiʻi, shared that local stores had a much better financial 2021 than 2020.

A few even outperformed 2019. Ironically, being busier has only made the challenges of the labor shortage and supply issues more pronounced.

Here’s what that looks like for retailers.

Angèl Foster, owner of Island Olive Oil Co., has had "help wanted" signs posted in both her Kailua and Ward Village stores for more than a year.

Applications have been fewer than ever, and half of those she reaches out to for interviews never respond. Consequently, she spends time working the sales floor herself, taking time away from running the business.

Ala Moana Center is still operating under reduced hours, said Jacob Wilson, the shopping mall’s vice president and senior general manager.

Even so, individual stores at the center will often notify him that they need to close even earlier due to staffing issues. He has seen this from small, locally-owned stores to the big national retailers.

For staff who do show up and stick it out, the holiday shopping season meant some people opting for double shifts or more, leading to some burnout.

On the supply chain front, Yamaki says some Hawaiʻi retailers are just now receiving goods they ordered in time for Christmas shopping, orders they had expected to arrive by September.

Some of her member retailers have reported receiving edible goods late and past their expiration date and so are unsalable.

One specific example of the kind of slow-down retailers are experiencing: Clothing and accessories boutique Eden in Love had been scheduled to receive a 40-foot container of goods last July.

It arrived in late November.

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