Pandemic Presents New Challenges for West Michigan Retailers
The first quarter showed a lot of activity for retail in West Michigan after a Q4 that was slower than expected. Nationally, consumer spending decreased from 0.4 percent to 0.2 percent from December through the beginning of the first quarter. Average hourly earnings increased 0.7 percent in the U.S. since the first quarter of last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic upended the activity of the quarter, as retailers and restaurants in Michigan were forced to close to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. In response, some retailers focused more on their online presence, while restaurants offered expanded carryout, drive thru and delivery services. But many have been forced to lay off employees during the pandemic and fi nd ways to cut other costs. This led owners and property managers of commercial real estate to work with tenants on rent payments throughout the crisis. Malls, theaters and gyms, among other retailers around the country, as well as national retailers like Nike and Apple have temporarily closed during shelter in place orders. Daily needs retailers like grocery stores, drug stores and big box retailers like Costco and Target have remained healthy throughout the pandemic, and some are still hiring workers as Michigan sees an unprecedented rate of people apply for unemployment benefits. Coming off a trend of historically low unemployment rates, by the end of Q1, eight percent of Michigan residents had fi led unemployment claims. Retail continued to evolve throughout Q1, before COVID-19. Art Van announced it would liquidate all Art Van, Art Van PureSleep and Scott Shuptrine stores after failed attempts to restructure the business. As there is still room in the market for a large furniture store, another furniture retailer could enter the market to fill the void.