Closures and instability continue to weigh on local retail

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As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, more major retail chains are filing for bankruptcy and potentially leaving behind empty storefronts in Southeast Texas, as local business owners attempt to adapt in order to avoid a similar fate.

The third week of August was a tough one for retail chains in southeast Texas, as three different companies announced they were filing for bankruptcy.

Houston’s Stage stores, which capped off the last holiday season with a huge sale to turn all of its stores into the Gordmans discount model, officially closed earlier in the week.


He attempted to hold job fairs in Vidor and Beaumont through March, but ran into scheduling issues and problems recruiting staff due to the pandemic.

He joined Stein Mart on the growing list of soon-to-empty stores in southeast Texas as the company announced its own bankruptcy last week.

The company has attempted to revamp its brand with new offerings and has even partnered with Amazon to offer pickup services at places like the Beaumont store.

Beaumont’s Parkdale Mall is also facing challenges. Its parent company, CBL Properties, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, announced Aug. 19 that it may soon file for bankruptcy after reaching a restructuring agreement with some of its lenders.

He said the current process would eliminate $900 million in debt and he would continue to negotiate with major lenders who hold the rest of his millions in debt.

“Our goal is for this process to go as smoothly and as quickly as possible without disrupting CBL’s operations,” CBL CEO Stephen Lebovitz said in a statement.

“Once the process is complete, we will emerge as a stronger and more stable business, with an enhanced ability to execute on our key strategies of diversifying our revenue streams and transforming our properties from traditional enclosed shopping centers to shopping malls. suburban towns.”

The company has been hit hard after having to temporarily close 68 shopping centers and reportedly collected just 27% of rents in April.

The pandemic and resulting economic insecurity have been the final nail in the coffin for already struggling brick-and-mortar retailers struggling to keep up with online giants like Amazon, but there are also signs businesses that are still holding out may have more time to wait before customers return. full power.

The Refinitiv and Ipsos primary consumer confidence index used to predict the likelihood of consumers spending money showed a 2.5% drop in consumer confidence between July and August, severe cases of COVID-19 increased in several states.

The index was at 47.1 in the latest report, down 13.5% from the same period last year.

As consumers face potential financial hardship from massive unemployment due to the pandemic or fear of going out in public, businesses have had to adapt to keep their heads above water.

For Traci Tucker of Cottoncreek Winery in Beaumont, that could simply take the form of delivering bottles of wine to customers if it helps improve her business’ prospects.

Since Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the closure of any business operating under a 51% liquor license, she said the winery has lost any kind of progress that may have built in the two months of limited activity. she had after she reopened in May.

She said she worked on integrating an online marketplace for the winery’s website, which made pick-up orders easier and allowed her to ship wine to Texas, but it didn’t. did not offset the decline in revenue from a closed tasting room.

“Frustrating is the only word that covers it,” she said. “We were on track for a record year before COVID, but now we’re not earning even half of what we were earning in a regular year.”

The number of people collecting bottles from the winery has dwindled and dwindled since the closure in July, but – after Tucker joined several other winery and brewery owners in protesting Abbott’s visit to Beaumont – she said that customers had flocked to support the winery.

The next step is to try to get those customers to come regularly, which is why Tucker said she’s trying to develop a wine club.

The pandemic has also impacted food prices, as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week, causing fluctuations in raw materials and straining supply chains.

Locally, grocers are holding out, but are seeing occasional shortages and difficulty finding enough workers to meet increased demands.

Skylar Thompson, president of Market Basket Foods, said there were occasional cost increases for some items, but business remained high for most.

“We noticed a slight dip when most restaurants reopened, but that didn’t last long,” he said.

“People are cooking at home in greater numbers, which has increased our business.”

Some of the peak demands have caused their own problems, such as an increase in canned beverage consumption as fewer people use soda fountains in restaurants.

Thompson said the store began creating promotions for bottled sodas as its suppliers faced a shortage of aluminum cans.

MSA Beaumont-Port Arthur recorded an unemployment rate of nearly 12% in July, but hiring remains a problem for companies like Market Basket.

Thompson said there haven’t been any major issues due to a lack of available workers, but there have been concerning trends since the start of the pandemic.

“Since COVID started, we’ve had higher turnover,” he said. “Having said that, we actually saw an increase in positions, but it was mostly part-time jobs.”

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