Retail businesses hope to match last year’s holiday sales

2020 has not been the best year for Kentuckians due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes retail businesses, which say it poses unusual circumstances for the holiday shopping season.

The Kentucky Retail Federation says more than 100 retailers responded to their annual statewide survey, and a majority indicated the pandemic has slowed their local economy, made getting supplies and goods tougher; and hoped that holiday shopping sales at least match last year’s results, although they expect that to be a challenge.

“This has been one of the most challenging years in recent memory for Kentucky retailers,” said Tod Griffin, Kentucky Retail Federation President. “The shutdown earlier this year, along with the continued concern over the number of cases in the state and wondering how their customers will feel about shopping for the holidays, has cast a long shadow. Still, so many of our retailers have shown their resiliency and ability to adapt to the challenges they face and are ready to serve their customers in a variety of ways.”

National experts have been watching supply issues caused by shutdowns earlier this year, and Kentucky’s retailers said one of the biggest hurdles they have seen this year is getting supplies and goods on time. Several said they have had to delay or even reject orders because of difficulty in getting needed materials. For example, retailers relying on baking supplies found a shortage of yeast, and outdoor sporting shops reported increased demand for fishing tackle that was hard to fulfill.

Respondents also said they had trouble finding enough employees at times, and customers were sometimes rude about being asked to follow guidelines, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“As you support your Kentucky retailers this holiday season, please remember to wear a mask if you’re shopping in person,” Griffin said. “We also encourage you to take advantage of the many alternative options retailers have made available, such as online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery. The retail industry is doing its part to ensure a safe holiday shopping season, and we are counting on our fellow Kentuckians to do the same.”

Looking ahead to 2021, hopes for improvement depends simply on how long COVID-19 continues and how quickly people are comfortable going back out to stores, according to the survey. Several respondents said even when they reopened this year, they noticed the public was wary of going out much, even with the safe shopping protocols put into place.

According to the organization, Kentucky’s retail industry supports 556 thousand jobs and pays more than $9.3 billion in wages annually. Retailers collect over $2.8 billion in state sales tax and pay millions in other taxes to state and local governments.

The Kentucky Retail Federation has represented retailers of all types and sizes since 1939.