As we begin to slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many snow and ice professionals are left to wonder what their commercial retail clients anticipate vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow will look like in 2021. This insight is critical in gauging next winter’s snow and ice management needs.
The National Retail Federations (NRF) recently issued its annual forecast, anticipating that retail sales will grow between 6.5 percent and 8.2 percent to more than $4.33 trillion in 2021 as more individuals get vaccinated and the economy reopens.
“Despite the continuing health and economic challenges COVID-19 presents, we are very optimistic that healthy consumer fundamentals, pent-up demand and widespread distribution of the vaccine will generate increased economic growth, retail sales and consumer spending,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says in a statement.
Early results show that retail sales in 2020 grew 6.7 percent over 2019 to $4.06 trillion, nearly doubling NRF’s forecast of at least 3.5 percent growth, which did not account for the impact of a global pandemic. This figure compares with 3.9 percent growth in 2019. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.
“From the outset of the pandemic, retailers have gone above and beyond even the most conservative safety guidelines to protect and serve their associates and consumers alike,” he adds. “Retailers are increasingly engaged in working with federal, state and local health officials to distribute and administer the vaccine. This partnership has been key to our economic health throughout the pandemic and will continue this year.”
This is positive news for the snow and ice management. While deemed an essential service and not prohibited from providing snow and ice mitigation during the pandemic, there was some concern that decreasing retail traffic may force retail property owners to scale back on winter services.
However, if this economic outlook continues to prove true as 2021 progresses, the snow and ice industry can expect service levels for retail clients to return to normal or even increase – winter weather permitting.
Mike Zawacki is editor of Snow Magazine