– Over half are still reporting less revenue than pre-COVID –

NORFOLK, Va. (February 3, 2021) – The holiday period has helped bolster sales for a quarter of small businesses throughout Hampton Roads with 26 percent reporting an increase in sales compared to pre-COVID levels, reported Retail Alliance from their Retail Pulse survey conducted in January. Most of the growth was driven by retailers and service industries.

In contrast, over half are still reporting lower sales than they had prior to the pandemic. In fact, 15% of businesses dropped to levels of 25% or below of pre-COVID sales. Restaurants, in particular, felt the impact with 82% experiencing less sales than prior to COVID.

Post Holiday Sales 2020 Vs Pre-COVID graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Sales vs Pre-COVID Filtered Chart

“Although the October to December holiday period gave a boost to sales for 2020, it wasn’t enough to outdo the previous year’s sales figures, or make a significant dent in the damage caused by COVID-19,” said Kylie Ross Sibert, VP Communications at Retail Alliance.

“Nearly a third of small businesses reported a decrease of 15% or more in sales during the holiday period versus the year prior, and 45 percent overall saw a decrease in sales.

“On a more positive note, 36 percent overall reported increases of holiday sales year over year, with 19 percent of those reporting an increase of 15 percent or more.

When segmenting between industry, it was clear that any increase in holiday sales was experienced by retailers versus restaurants. Over half of restaurants surveyed experienced 15% or more decrease in holidays during 2020 versus 2019.

Post Holiday Sales 2020 vs 2019 chart
Retail Pulse Holiday Sales 2020 vs 2019 Filtered Chart

The pandemic challenged retailers across the board. Customer concerns about safety due to COVID-19 was a challenge for 81% of businesses, along with concerns about the economy (72%), product availability (71%), lack of awareness of local stores (69%), and reduced store capacity (64%). Interestingly, increase in online shopping appeared further down the list at 54% after cash flow (59%).

Challenges Holiday Season 2020 graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Safety Concerns Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Reduced Capacity Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Economic Concerns Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Product Availability Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Lack of Awareness Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Limited Marketing Dollars Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Online Shopping Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Cash Flow Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Weather Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Big Box Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 Challenges - Staffing Graph

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

  • In January, 26% reported that their current sales have recovered back to levels before COVID-19 hit. Back in October that figure was 14%, which showed that the holiday season had a positive impact on their revenue.
  • Unfortunately, the flipside is that 56% of businesses are still reporting they had less sales than they did prior to the pandemic. But this is still an improvement from October, when 85% of businesses reported to have less than pre-COVID revenue levels.
  • 45% saw a decrease in sales during the holiday period compared to the same period in 2019. 32% of those reported a decrease of 15+%.
  • 19% of businesses saw an increase of 15+% year over year, with an additional 17% seeing some increase, albeit on a smaller scale. Overall, 36% reported increases and 17% experienced flat sales.
  • The pandemic challenged retailers across the board. Customer concerns about safety due to COVID-19 was a challenge for 81% of businesses, along with concerns about the economy (72%), product availability (71%), lack of awareness of local stores (69%), and reduced store capacity (64%). Interestingly, increase in online shopping appeared further down the list at 54% after cash flow (59%).
  • On average, ecommerce sales made up 23% of overall sales during the holiday period between October and December 2020.
  • In our survey, nearly half of small businesses said they refund cash or return the credit to their card (47%). 29% exchange, 27% provide store credit or a gift card.
  • Just over a third do not have a return policy (take into consideration that many restaurants, cafes, etc cannot do returns).

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About Retail Pulse Survey

Retail Alliance’s Retail Pulse survey was conducted in January 2021 with 134 small businesses (retail, restaurant, services) across Hampton Roads.

Business Classifications and Sizes:

Retail Pulse Post-Holiday Business Type Graph
Retail Pulse Post-Holiday No. of Employees Graph
Retail Pulse Holiday Survey 2020 - Employees Filtered Graph

About Retail Alliance

Retail Alliance is a non-profit trade association serving the interests of local retailers in Hampton Roads since 1903. The organization promotes and supports the healthy growth of retail businesses and trade through their buy local app, LOVEVA, education, advocacy and member benefits. www.retailalliance.com