NJ businesses discuss loss, future with reopening committee.

 
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Byline: Gabrielle Saulsbery

Small business owners and representatives hit the New Jersey Senate Fiscal Recovery Strategists Committee with some daunting numbers during a Zoom conference Tuesday, which the lawmakers hosted to speak publicly with businesses affected by COVID-19 shutdowns.

New car sales have dropped 70 to 80 percent for April year over year as a result of New Jersey's stay at home order, and May 2020 sales are expected to be just slightly north of half of May 2019's, but New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers Jim Appleton told lawmakers Tuesday that this has been a time of lessons learned.

"If there is a silver lining here, it's that consumers and retailers are becoming more comfortable with online shopping with cars," Appleton said during the Zoom hearing hosted by Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-36th District.

Market research shows that older consumers, the most acquisitive and reliable consumers in the car sales world, according to Appleton, "stayed away in droves in the lockdown." But now, car dealerships are sharpening their online services, and issues have been unearthed within the Motor Vehicle Commission's online system that can now be addressed.

John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, told the committee that retail sales are down across almost the entire board: Health stores are down 10 percent, general merchandise stores are down 13 percent; sporting goods store sales are down 48 percent; electronics, 64 percent; upholstery and appliance, 66 percent; and most dramatically, clothing and accessory store sales are down 89 percent.

"It's been a very uneven impact," Holub said. "Obviously certain retail categories have been decimated [while] others have been okay, if you can even say that. It's critically important that we reopen our main streets."

Small business owners and association representatives took turns explaining the economic impact on their industries to the lawmakers on the Zoom conference as lawmakers asked them questions.

Obviously certain retail categories have been decimated [while] others have been okay, if you can even say that. It's critically important that we reopen our main streets.

John Holub, president, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association

The committee, comprised of Sens. Troy Singleton, D-7th District; Steve Oroho, R-24th District; and President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz, in addition to Sarlo, is tasked with developing a plan to reopen New Jersey's economy safely as the...

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