Last minute shoppers help give much needed boost to metro retail stores

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February 07 2021 05:30 pm

MISSION, Kan. — The last-minute shopping rush has come and gone.

The Christmas season arrives in a year like we’ve never seen before. Shopping centers and grocery stores around the Kansas City metro were packed all day on Thursday, as Christmas Eve shoppers made their final runs to stores for food and gifts.

Retailers are enjoying one unforeseen present this holiday season. Business amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many stores welcomed late shoppers on December 24, having realized a badly-needed uptick at the cash registers during 2020 final month. Large stores and small shops alike said the last-minute boost is welcome.

The Hy-Vee location in Mission was brimming with business right up to closing time on Thursday. Chris Wiltfong, a district store director with the grocery chain, said customers are often treating themselves to high-end grocery purchases while planning to keep celebrations small and pandemic-friendly.

“We’re seeing people buy for what might be a smaller gathering as opposed to sometimes, you’d see carts of stuff. Today, you’re seeing more business from my family. I’d say that’s something produced by the pandemic,” Wiltfong said on Thursday.

Meals are also a serious matter at smaller local shops, such as Kansas City, Missouri’s Local Pig & Pigwich, a specialty meats store in the city’s River Market. Matt Kafka, one of the store’s co-owners, said business is up as much as 15% in December. Kafka said many people are still planning large dinners, but attendance at those meals will be small.

“They’re wanting to have leftovers at home. They’re actually getting more food,” Kafka said. “If one person came in and got it — let’s say, a 10-pound rib roast — but now, that we’re going to have three or four parties and three or four parties at homes having meals, they’re going to eat get a three-to-four pound rib roast.”

Wiltfong estimated grocery business across the Kansas City metro is up at least 300% in the second half of 2020, likely due to Hy-Vee’s online purchase pickup system.

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