While it’s only mid-October, Hawaiʻi retailers are preparing now for the second holiday shopping season under the pandemic — and various COVID policies. Their top concerns include finding enough help and having enough in stock.

Nationwide, November and December sales account for nearly 20% of retailers’ revenue. For the Hawaiʻi retailers Pacific Business News spoke with, it’s typically more like 30-50%. According to Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaiʻi, the need for a great season is acute.

Many retailers are going into this holiday season carrying a lot of debt as they borrowed money to pay the rent, pay utilities and pay staff while shopping dropped off under COVID-19 restrictions.

For such stores, cash flow can be a challenge which can make it difficult to order stock. But even if money were no object, the supply chain issues being felt around the world are still a concern.

For Kailua boutique Global Village, a clothing order placed in March was not filled until July and the pace of delivery is getting slower. Yamaki says it’s not unusual for Hawaiʻi stories to receive an order and find only half the quantity they’d been expecting.

The mysteriously missing workforce is another worry.

Pearlridge Center held a job fair last month and 20 retailers attended, hoping to secure help. Stores staff up quite a bit for the holidays.

T&C Surf Designs typically hires 75 seasonal workers for its seven locations. It’s been tough this year, says Marketing Director Lani Isherwood, with candidates blowing off interviews and even their first day of work.

Collectively, stores are diversifying their sourcing, enhancing their online selling and thinking creatively to keep the staff they have.


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