Puerto Rico retail sector optimistic about holiday season
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s retail sector is optimistic about its sales volume on Black Friday and for the holiday season.
Although there are also fewer retailers operating this year, United Retailers Association President Jorge Arguelles said he expects Black Friday sales to be 30% higher than last year because people are spending money after the government announced it will pay the so-called Christmas bonus.
Arguelles said that because many businesses opted to open on Thanksgiving Day, the lines on Black Friday were shorter because consumers had the option of getting items for low prices and not having to wait in line all night for stores to open.
“They had the same offers available Thursday than on Black Friday,” he said.
An employee at a JC Penney in Plaza Carolina, which opened this month after closing to fix the damage it sustained from Hurricane Maria, said there has been a lot of enthusiasm and confidence.
“We have had long lines of people at the cash register lines. The store also has good offers,” she said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak for the retailer.
The Puerto Rico Trade and Export Co. anticipated 20% more retail sales than last year, which Arguelles said is close to the numbers his organization is anticipating.
The organization conducted a survey before Black Friday that revealed that, opposed to last year, consumers felt more confident this year because of the federal funds that are being injected into the economy, such as Federal Emergency Management Agency aid and insurance claim payments.
“We believe we will see that number because there is more enthusiasm than last year. The government has already said it will pay the Christmas bonus and so people are putting things on layaway or shopping,” he said.
Gilberto Arvelo, known as DoctorShopper, said that if certain retailers made more money it is because there are fewer stores, but in his opinion, only four stores had a high sales volume on Black Friday.
“Only Walmart, Best Buy, JC Penney and Macy’s profited on Black Friday. Last year, they said their sales were good but come January, what happened? Sam’s closed four stores,” Arvelo noted.
Arvelo said that if retailers made more money, it was because of the closing of stores such as Toys ‘R’ Us or Kmart.
“If you go to Paseo de Diego [in Río Piedras], there are five stores there compared with 12 in 2016. If you go to Ponce de León Avenue [in Santurce], there are a lot fewer stores,” he stressed.
Last week, while consumers were enjoying the long holiday weekend, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York said 27 Kmart and Sears stores in Puerto Rico were slated for closing as part of the closing of 504 stores nationwide.
This does not mean the stores are going to shut down forever because the bankruptcy process through which stores are listed, will have a period for individuals to put bid on the stores. The acquirer may propose to buy a store to keep it open or for liquidation.