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Retail Cheers Stimulus Talks

Steps toward a second round of economic stimulus have been halting at best, but a reeling retailer sector hopes lawmakers on either side of the aisle can unite for the sake of struggling consumers and businesses.

NRF and our members have been vocal and consistent in our calls for additional, targeted fiscal stimulus and the extension of expiring coronavirus relief measures,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the national trade group, said Tuesday. “We are encouraged by news of bipartisan discussions about meaningful and comprehensive stimulus measures to help support consumers, small businesses, states and health care professionals.”

On Tuesday, a group of 16 lawmakers including Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) proposed a bipartisan framework for coronavirus relief that includes $288 billion to resupply the Paycheck Protection Program benefiting small businesses and similarly constrained organizations.

“Millions of Americans have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and are hurting, but Congress has been deadlocked for months with both sides unwilling to compromise to help our fellow Americans who are in desperate need,” Sen. Manchin said in a statement. “The bipartisan, bicameral framework announced today proves that we can reach across the aisle and create meaningful compromise that will help those who need it most for the next few months. Our $908 billion framework provides our front line healthcare providers, students, families, small businesses and workers with the support they need and deserve during this devastating pandemic.”

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The renewed stimulus push comes as Covid-19 infections are rising from coast to coast, and early holiday shopping data shows mixed results. California’s confirmed cases for Dec. 2 climbed 1.7 percent from the day before, according to the state’s tracking service, underscoring the need for restrictions imposed on Nov. 21 that limit when non-essential businesses can operate. Cases are ticking up in New York, too, which has reinstated similar restrictions on businesses where people gather in large numbers.

Meanwhile, store traffic slumped over Thanksgiving weekend, as many consumers opted to stay away from bustling malls and spend their dollars online instead. Footfall from Thanksgiving and Black Friday through Sunday fell 49 percent from the prior year, Sensormatic Solutions reported Tuesday.

All of this lends exigent gravity to the call for a second stimulus.

“We urge Senate and House leadership to move expeditiously and pass stimulus legislation,” Shay said. “A bipartisan plan to keep the economy moving in the right direction with job creation and sustainable economic growth is urgently needed.”

AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar minced no words in spurring senators and representatives to stitch together a workable solution.

“Covid-19 management and relief through stimulus measures must be priority number one for all decision makers at this time,” he said, noting the outbreak’s “devastating” impact on the nation’s apparel and footwear industry that has put millions of jobs at risk. “Additional economic relief truly cannot be postponed any longer. Our industry needs to see a final stimulus package that includes key provisions such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) extension/expansion; trade credit insurance; Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) expansion; legal liability protection; return to work incentives; Healthy Workplaces Tax Credit; and duty drawback for charitable donations.”

Retailers of clothing and shoes sorely need assistance, he said, because they are “keeping store operations safe and open for workers and consumers while they provide critical supplies and warm-weather apparel and footwear this holiday shopping season.”

Lamar added, “we’ve joined a coalition that touches every part of the economy—encompassing all parts of the private and public sector, locally, and nationally—to make sure we are aligned to solve the economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic. Together, the coalition is articulating why we need coronavirus relief now.”