Puerto Rico lost an estimated $28.8 billion in sales and reflected a 12 percent reduction in its payroll in the first four months after Hurricane María passed through the island, mostly due to the lack of power that kept businesses closed, according to research presented during a forum held by the Retail Association.
“The passage of Hurricane María left more than $28 billion in losses for retail trade in Puerto Rico. However, the consumption projections for 2018 show a significant improvement and the need to recruit more jobs to cover the demand that the recovery and allocation of federal funds will bring with it,” said Economist Antonio Rosado, who produced the research for the study.
Rosado is the only economist in Puerto Rico who worked the María Index by municipality, a study that, according to the variables used, collects the losses in the retail trade in each town on the island.
Prior to María’s passing, the retail industry generated a little more than $3 billion annually in payroll, which contrasts with the estimated reduction of 12 percent in the four months of the post-María energy crisis.
The retail trade group known as ACDET for its initials in Spanish, was established in 2010 and represents an industry that generates more than 200,000 direct jobs in chain stores, shopping centers, and service providers to the sector such as banks, insurers, security companies, information systems and others. This sector collects more than 60 percent of sales and use tax, and pays more than $500 million in taxes and patents.
The summit’s agenda included a snapshot of the changes in consumer dynamics based on the increase in online shopping, losses and adjustments the sector has had to make post-storm, and case studies of successful entrepreneurs. More than 300 retailers, executives and government officials participated.
“In recent years, the ACDET has had a leadership role in the private sector before the Executive and Legislative branches, in defense of the best interests of retail, and we have developed initiatives aimed at promoting education with a global vision,” said Lymaris Otero, executive director of ACDET.
“We felt that a summit event was needed to fulfill this purpose and we are extremely satisfied with the dynamics and presentations that were shared in the forum,” she said.
Doug Stephens, known as the “Retail prophet,” delivered the keynote speech, in which he challenged participants to look beyond prices to compete. For him, “the value-added element weighs more when it comes to a sale or purchase.”
He also said the effort between the business sector and the government should be one of collaboration to build the infrastructure that serves customers and their market through online commerce.