Retail hopes for big bounce-back once vaccines become widespread

Growing access to vaccines are expected to renew consumer confidence and drive more sales at local businesses this year, according to the Florida Retail Federation.

2020 was a difficult year for small businesses, and owners made several changes once they reopening, including what they stock in the store.

"Athleisure has been a really huge segment because everybody’s sitting at home, working from home," said Kimberly Camacho, owner of Triage Consignment Boutique in Tampa.

Camacho said she has missed interactions and conversations with customers over the past year.

"So many of our ladies have had to stay away because they’re in a high-risk age group," said Camacho.

But people are starting to shop in person again.

"We’ll see people, and it’s so exciting to see them because they’re just starting to get the vaccines and they’re coming back in the store," said Camacho. "We’re seeing people we haven’t seen outside of their car in a year."

This week, the Florida Retail Federation said they expect that confidence to grow in 2021, predicting sales to jump anywhere from 6.8 to 8.2% nationwide. That’s $4.3 to $4.4 trillion in revenue.

"It’s a significant growth expected for 2021. In fact in previous years over the last 10 to 20 years, growth year to year has been about 3 to 5 percent," said FRF Spokesperson Amanda Bevis.

At A. Haley boutique near Westshore Mall in Tampa, workers said they already see a boost. Owner Jennifer Haley Luebbe said more people are coming inside her store.

"We love getting to find out what new event they’re going to that weekend or oh hey how did your friend’s wedding go and what are you looking for this time? We really truly value and rely on those customers each and every day to keep our doors open," said Haley Luebbe.

Like many small business owners, the past year has been a challenge for Haley Luebbe. But she’s optimistic.

"It was really that ripple effect that we realized no one’s coming in the door because no one has a reason to shop. But now I will say in the past month or two, it really has been more hopeful," said Haley Luebbe.

Where people decide to spend matters more this year, so small business owners said they're hopeful.

"I think spring for all of us is a hopeful time more so than ever this year," said Haley Luebbe. "I would just reach out to people in your community, individuals, businesses. I think we all need each other right now."

FRF said the recovering economy and demand to get out also play a part in expected growth for this year.

"Everyone needs to know how appreciative small businesses are of your support. It’s been really, really crucial for us," said Camacho.