Puerto Rico’s retail sector stands to lose more than $8.4 billion if power remains down for more than six months, the Retail Business Association warned Monday.
The trade group, which represents more than 150,000 sector employees warned of the serious consequences for jobs and retail operations in Puerto Rico, if electric service is not restored this year as announced by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
According to an analysis conducted by economist Antonio Rosado, in a period of six months without power losses to the retail sector can reach $8.4 billion and in the best case, if service is restored in three months, losses would amount to $3 billion. Rosado, who is an economic adviser to ACDET, as the trade group is known by its initials in Spanish.
“Since day one, following the passing of Hurricane María, we have worked as a team, the private sector and the government, to achieve emergency management, stabilization and subsequent economic recovery as soon as possible,” said Lymaris Otero ACDET executive director.
“However, it is unsustainable for the retail sector to operate indefinitely with electric generators and fuel,” she added.
“We are aware of the emergency that the island is experiencing. It is necessary to ensure the supply of food and drinking water to citizens. Once this goal is achieved, reactivating the island’s economy must be one of the undisputed priorities and from there move on to reinvention,” said Otero.
According to the Census, retail sales exceeded $24.9 billion a year. The chain stores generate 150,000 jobs; which today can not be guaranteed if power service is not readily restored.
“The hurricane’s impact is reflected in lost sales per month during the inactive period, as measured by the María index, which may reach 52 percent of annual sales,” said Rosado.
“We know that several of the most important companies are already operating and that supermarket chains and pharmacies, as well as department stores have been striving to operate, some on limited schedules, but with long lines and significant limitations in energy, telecommunications and security,” Rosado said.
Normalizing the economic activity in retail, less than two months of the best season for stores, Christmas, is a priority to maintain the jobs, recover sales and use tax receipts for the government, and to bring sales to their normal level, Rosado added.
“A loss of more than $8 billion is as catastrophic a hit as Hurricane María itself with its winds of more than 150 miles per hour,” Rosado said.
“Our call to the government and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s team is to work tirelessly and allocate all the necessary resources so that the power service is not Christmas wish that doesn’t come true. Energizing shopping centers and areas close to retail trade centers is vital to activate the island’s economy,” Otero concluded.