Hawaii retailers seek rent relief as coronavirus pandemic wears on

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Many of Hawaii’s retail shops and businesses are still clinging to hope of surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected them for nearly a year now.

Some threw in the towel, seeing no other option but to close, while some are shifting online and yet others are hoping for another lifeline from government, mostly in the form of rent relief, to stay afloat as the pandemic drags on.

ABC Stores, the popular chain of convenience stores in Hawaii’s tourist meccas, is feeling the struggle, despite the return of visitors and launch of the state’s Safe Travels pre-testing program in mid-October.

“They’re not back in droves,” said President and CEO Paul Kosasa, describing sales in Waikiki as slow. “I think everybody is just trying to be more careful. I think the focus is not so much on traveling, but waiting their turn to get vaccinated.”

Sales are down more than 50% at the stores on nearly every corner of Waikiki and across Hawaii. Kosasa said there has been a small uptick in online sales for items like face masks and gifts, but it has been fractional.

Roughly a little more than half of the 65 ABC stores in Hawaii remain open, while the others remain temporarily closed at this time.

Of the more than 1,000 employees Kosasa had previous to COVID-19, he said an estimated 600 to 700 employees remain on furlough, and though the intention is to bring them back eventually, some have quit, relocated or moved on to other jobs…

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