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Record retail spending expected in 2021

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Record retail spending expected in 2021

Consumer spending is on its way to reaching record levels in 2021.

Retail sales will grow by 8.1 percent this year — the fastest pace this century — to a record $4.3 trillion, according to retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, which tracks government data and its own proprietary research.

The robust growth tops the annual 6.4 percent increase in 2004, which had been the biggest increase of the century so far.

Americans who kept their jobs — and those who lost jobs but were buoyed by federal and state unemployment checks and stimulus payments — fueled the retail spending on everything from home goods to electronics, work from home gear, sporting goods and toys.

The economic collapse in the first half of last year was the “shortest recession in memory at just five months or one month shorter than the 1980 recession,” said CGP president Craig Johnson. 

Consumers’ finances are among the healthiest in decades as they have padded their savings accounts with an extra $1.2 trillion — mostly by spending less on vacations and entertainment — over the past year.

The retailers that will continue to drive most of the spending this year or account for 12.1 percent of the pie will be those who offer home goods, including big box stores like Target, Lowes, Walmart and Home Depot followed by sporting goods which will account for 9.8 percent of spending.

Restaurants and bars will eventually return to growth as well at 4.6 percent growth, CGP predicts while spending at department stores and other apparel retailers will be down 12.1 percent and 8.7 percent respectively.

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JPMorgan looks to sublet NYC office space: report

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JPMorgan looks to sublet NYC office space: report

JPMorgan Chase is looking to sublet big blocks of office space in Manhattan, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The bank is looking to sublet just under 700,000 square feet at 4 New York Plaza in the Financial District and more than 100,000 square feet at 5 Manhattan West in the Hudson Yards area, the report said.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic-led lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, fewer people have been going to office, which has prompted companies to reassess the need for real estate.

“It is too early to comment on specifics as we continue to learn and adapt to this current situation and how it impacts our commercial real estate needs. We are committed to New York and are planning for the next 50 years with our new headquarters here,” a spokesperson for the bank said.

Real estate broker Jones Lang LaSalle is marketing JPMorgan’s space, the report said.

In October, JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said JPMorgan would press ahead with its plans to build a large headquarters in New York that is scheduled to open in 2024.

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Controversial NYC tower isn’t too tall, appeals court says

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Controversial NYC tower isn't too tall, appeals court says

The controversial, “too-tall” new apartment tower at 200 Amsterdam Ave. won’t have to take a haircut after all — because it isn’t really too tall.

A state appeals court Tuesday unanimously upheld the right of developers SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan to keep the nearly-completed building at its 52-story height. The Appellate Division slapped down a lower-court judge’s decision that they must take down 20 stories because the structure supposedly violated zoning rules.

The unanimous Appellate Division ruling makes it all but impossible for the plaintiffs, a coalition of West Side activists, to take the case to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest judicial body.

Developers and landlords had been holding their breath awaiting the decision, as an upheld order to tear down part of the building could have impacted many other properties either in construction or already standing. Even the MetLife Building at 200 Park Ave. could have faced retroactive legal challenges as it relied on the same zoning-law interpretation used at 200 Amsterdam.

State Supreme Court judge Franc Perry ruled in February 2020 that the developers had used “deceptive practices” and “violated city regulations” in putting up the tower at Amsterdam Avenue and West 71st Street, even though it  had valid permits from the Department of Buildings since 2017.

The city gambled that Perry would be overturned and allowed construction on the tower to continue.

The city Law Department joined SJP and Mitsui Fudosan in an appeal filed last fall. They argued that the project conformed with highly technical rules dating back to the 1970s that allowed combining whole and partial tax lots in order to create a bigger “footprint” for construction.

The appellate judges said that while the zoning rules were “ambiguous,” the city’s Bureau of Standards and Appeals “rationally” interpreted them. The lower court “should have deferred” to the BSA, the judges ruled.

SJP chairman and CEO Steven J. Pozycki called the ruling “an unequivocal affirmation that 200 Amsterdam’s permit was lawfully issued … We thank the city for their support.”

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NYC eateries enticing staff to get COVID vaccine

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NYC eateries enticing staff to get COVID vaccine

Now that Big Apple restaurant workers are eligible for coronavirus vaccines, eatery owners are walking a fine line trying to encourage them. 

Shake Shack staffers get an extra six hours of pay to get jabbed. 

“While Shake Shack won’t be requiring vaccinations, we are strongly encouraging it,” a spokeswoman for the New York City-based burger chain told Side Dish. 

Starbucks is shelling out four hours’ pay to employees who get protected against the virus, as is McDonald’s at all of its corporate-owned outposts. 

It’s not just the big chains that are doing it. Smaller restaurateurs are also coming up with ways to encourage staffers to get the vaccine — ranging from a one-shot payment to time off without pay and assistance setting up appointments. 

Jeremy Wladis, president of The Restaurant Group, which operates Harvest Kitchen, Hachi Maki and Good Enough to Eat on the Upper West Side, is offering to pay his employees $25 each to get vaccinated. 

“I want everyone who is willing to be vaccinated. I think it is so important. It’s a good way to give back and to give people a few bucks and incentivize them to do something good. It will help the staff, the world and our business,” Wladis said, adding that he now has 65 staffers, down from around 100 pre-pandemic. 

It’s not something he wants to force on workers, however. 

“I don’t want to push it. You never know when you are stepping over that line,” Wladis said, adding that if some employees don’t take him up on his offer to pay them to get vaccinated, then “we certainly aren’t mentioning it.” 

Indeed, while it is perfectly legal for hospitality employers to require their staffers to get vaccinated, there are medical and religious-based exemptions that could lead to problems for employers without a full-time human-resources team, said James Mallios, a top restaurant lawyer and owner of Bar Marseille and Amali in New York City and Calissa in the Hamptons. 

“You can legally mandate people to get vaccinated, but it’s an HR nightmare to do it the right way,” Mallios said. 

“You have to make sure people are treated the same,” he added. “It sounds normal and intuitive, but it’s a lot of work, and I don’t have 30 hours a week to spare, so we decided we’d take a different approach — to positively encourage people to get vaccinated.” 

In the past, Mallios has paid for his employees to get flu shots. Now he’s paying for their travel and time to get the COVID-19 vaccine and setting up their appointments. Around 55 people work in all three restaurants, he added. 

In addition to the legal issues, many restaurant workers also don’t have health insurance. That could lead to problems if they’re forced to have the vaccine and end up having a reaction. 

“Forget the legality, just the guilt I would feel,” Mallios said. 

A recent survey suggests fears over side effects loom large among workers. According to the 2021 Hospitality Vaccination and Employment Status Report from Harri, a hospitality and retail recruiting Web site, 29 percent of 4,250 current and former hospitality workers surveyed said they would not get the vaccine, with 57 percent citing fears of side effects. 

“God forbid we tell them to do it and something happens and they have an allergic reaction. We could be liable,” said Stratis Morfogen, director of operations at the Brooklyn Chop House and Brooklyn Dumpling Shop. 

“But we are offering paid time off for the days they get it, and if they feel tired or discomfort, we’ll give them a paid sick day leave,” Morfogen said. 

Giselle and Roberto Deiaco of Avena in Greenwich Village and on the Upper East Side say their staffers are anxious to get vaccinated because they saw up close the danger of the coronavirus. 

“Everyone is eager to get vaccinated. I don’t need to incentivize them. Eighty percent of my staff had COVID-19 last March, and four of them had really bad cases where they were violently ill and thought they would die. They don’t want to go through that again,” Giselle Deiaco said of her 25 staffers. 

Still, she is doing what she can to help, including booking staffers’ appointments, providing them with documentation and giving them time off. 

“I wrote letters for them and helped book online appointments. I told them we will do whatever it takes for them to get the vaccine,” Deiaco added. 

“We are supportive and cooperative and give them time off. Everyone can’t wait to get it.” 

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