National Retail Federation’s (NRF) chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, has said the Omicron variant is likely to fuel further inflation, as Americans keep shopping rather than dining out and traveling which would compound inflation as demand remains high and supply chain challenges continue. Speaking on the likelihood of an economic slowdown or shutdown of business, Kleinhenz went on to say that “each successive variant has slowed down the economy but that the degree of slowdown has been less,” this time, noting that with Omicron consumers may have more confidence to spend because of being fully vaccinated and/or hearing about milder cases from the variant.
The outlook comes as the US hits record pandemic numbers and new daily cases, and some retailers and restaurants – including Starbucks, Apple, Nike and Gap-owned Athleta – shut stores or shorten hours in order to deal with being understaffed or in order to increase sanitization efforts in-store. For example, Walmart temporarily shut nearly 60 U.S. stores in coronavirus hotspots to sanitize them, and Macy’s indicated plans to reduce store hours this month. Despite that reduction in store hours, many retailers have made it easier for customers to shop in other ways — from home delivery to curbside pickup.