Managers at physical retail stores in New Jersey and the surrounding area are extremely optimistic about the continued rebound in sales and foot traffic, with most COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, according to an annual survey in the middle of the year by Levin Management Corporation.
Almost two-thirds, 65%, of those polled said they believed sales would improve even more from where they are now through the end of the year, and 19% predict that they will at least maintain their current levels.
Levin CEO Matthew Harding said that starting in late spring, the combination of widely available COVID vaccines and an itch to go out and do things after a whole year made stores very busy, causing a strong summer resurgence.
Probing those on the floors of most malls anchored in supermarkets or big box stores can paint the most accurate picture of what New Jersey shoppers are feeling right now, Harding said.
“It’s regionalized in our region, and then also, it’s the managers, the people who are really dealing with change on a daily basis and who run a business and a mall in New Jersey,” he said.
Retail workers have had to adapt and embrace the technological changes that were slowly developing before the pandemic, such as mobile orders and text alerts, but which were taken into high gear when customers were banned from operating. ‘enter non-essential stores last spring.
More than five in six (85%) have implemented such changes, according to the survey.
“COVID has accelerated the need for change for business owners, retailers and restaurants to reach their customers in different ways,” said Harding. “Almost 60% of our respondents are going to keep things in place, so it’s sticky. Their customers have gotten used to it, and it’s working well for them, ways to increase their sales.”
A major obstacle to a continued boom is the evident shortage of workers in New Jersey and elsewhere. More than 70% of managers surveyed say they are currently hiring for vacant positions, and almost 80% say it is now more difficult to find quality candidates.
“You have people who want to shop, who want to dine, and retailers, restaurateurs, other business owners who aren’t really able to fully adapt to this growth,” Harding said.
Even though this poll asked for managers’ outlook for the remainder of 2021, Levin Management Corporation will then contact them just before the holiday shopping season in mid-fall.
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