Sick of sweatpants yet?

A vaccine for you. A vaccine for you. And a vaccine for you.
 
What a difference from a few weeks ago. President Joe Biden yesterday doubled his original pledge of 100 million vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days.
 
And Gov. Charlie Baker announced yesterday that the state expects to receive an additional 40,800 doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine next week.
 
"Vaccines are here, and that's a great thing, but we're still in a race against time," Baker said.
 
He warned that the state is starting to see more positive cases in people under the age of 30, while urging residents to keep wearing masks and following protocols.
 
Here’s the state’s eligibility timeline, which still calls for every adult to be able to schedule an appointment by April 19.
 
Sick of sweatpants yet?
 
Clothes. They're not just for Zoom anymore.
 
As the economy reopens, vaccines accelerate and stimulus checks arrive, consumers are buying — or at least browsing for — clothing and shoes, signaling growing optimism as life begins inching toward normal, reports the Washington Post.
 
Madewell and Anthropologie are seeing a resurgence in dress sales, while Bonobos reports rising demand for suits, dress shirts and tuxedos. Last month, seven of the top 10 selling items on Anthropologie’s website were dresses, compared to one or two last year, reports CNBC.
 
“Up until recently, the fashion predominantly has been...casual and home comfortable,” said Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne “The apparel business will be in for a change in terms of what categories we sell.”
  • Overall apparel sales dropped 19 percent last year while sweatpants sales surged 17 percent year-over-year and sleepwear was up six percent.
  • Fashion footwear dropped 27 percent, while slippers sales jumped 21 percent.
 
But experts warn congested U.S. portscontainer shortages and even that stalled ship at the Suez Canal may make replenishing stock challenging.
 
But where will we shop?
 
It remains to be seen where consumers will go for their new wardrobe and which of the new shopping habits adopted during the pandemic will stick.
 
Don’t expect a return to the Black Friday frenzy, or discounting to become as widespread as it was before the pandemic, experts tell the Wall Street Journal. Expect some malls to make a comeback – but with a new look. And, they predict, curbside “won’t be kicked to the curbside.”
 
Bloomberg reports that while some retailers are abandoning enclosed malls, some merchants that were previously known for their mall presence are moving to free standing locations. And yet, we recently lost that standalone Gap store in Wellesley.
 
Openings and closed
  • The creators of UBurger are planning a new "neighborhood family dining spot" in the former Newton Pizza House space in Newton Highlands, reports Boston Restaurant Talk. The 30-seat 57 Lincoln Eatery hopes to open next month.
  • Cather Brauner at the Townsman has an interview with the owners of the just opened Wellesley Tavern at Linden Square.
  • Jenna Fisher at Patch has confirmed that the West Street Tavern & Restaurant in Nonantum is closed permanently.
  • Boston Sports Clubs closed all but 15 of its 31 Massachusetts health clubs last year, including two in Newton. AG Maura Healey announced this week that BSC has been ordered to shell out roughly $127,000 in refunds to Bay State customers, who kept getting dinged on their credit cards after the clubs abruptly shut down, reports Gintautas Dumcius at the BBJ.
 
Reminder about next week's life sciences panel
 
A reminder that we have two powerhouse life sciences experts -- Bob Coughlin, Managing Director of Life Sciences for JLL (previous CEO of MassBio) and Hunter Kass, EVP of Alexandria Real Estate -- participating on our panel Monday about developing a life science cluster in Newton.
 
We'll also hear from Steven Magoon -- Watertown’s Director of Community Development & Planning -- to discuss the life science boom in Watertown, how it was possible and the benefits.
 
And we'll take a look at Mark Development's plans to add a life sciences component to the Riverside T Station.
 
Energy saving program can help restaurants
 
If you run a restaurant in Needham, Newton, Watertown or Wellesley, you can give your customers another way to support your business while helping themselves. 
 
Spread the word about no-cost MassSave home energy assessments to your customers. When your customers sign up and complete a virtual home energy assessment with HomeWorks Energy, HomeWorks will purchase a $25 gift card from you that the customer can use toward their next purchase. 
 
Thanks to Green Needham, who came up with this idea. To participate, contact Riley Duggan, of HomeWorks Energy, at 207-664-9393.
 
 
Commission questions tax breaks on alcohol, film and Fidelity
 
A commission created to evaluate more than 200 special tax breaks has just issued a report rating their effectiveness.
 
The review flagged concerns about measures benefitting the film, alcohol, and mutual fund industries, reports Bruce Mohl at CommonWealth.
 
In contrast, the study hailed the life sciences tax credit for its effectiveness and transparency, Mohl reports.
 
Restaurant relief program to launch next month
 
Restaurants should be able to apply for a slice of the SBA’s $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant program within the next 30 to 45 days.
 
The program will allow restaurants to apply for grants of up to $10 million based on lost revenue, with $5 billion of the total pie set aside for businesses that made less than $500,000 in 2019 revenue. More information is expected in the next seven to 10 days, according to Andy Medici at the BBJ.
 
The National Restaurant Association has information here.
 
Speaking of the SBA….
 
The SBA is increasing the maximum eligible amounts for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Beginning April 6, recipients – including those who previously received an EIDL – can access up to $500,000.
 
The previous limit was $150,000. Businesses that already received a smaller loan do not need to resubmit a request for an increase. The SBA says it will email your business directly to provide details.
 
And still speaking of the SBA…
 
The Senate voted 92-7 yesterday to extend the PPP deadline to May 31 and give the SBA an extra month after that to process applications. The bill has already been approved by the House and now goes to President Biden, who is expected to sign it.
 
And if you already received your PPP loan and missed our webinar yesterday on forgiveness, chamber members can watch a replay here.
 
Rents drop along T stops...but why?
 
Finally, thanks to Doug Banks at the BBJ for pointing out the site Renthop, which has published an interesting interactive map tracking year-over-year fluctuations in apartment rents near MBTA stops.
 
While the changes along Newton's Green Line stops were modest, overall rents decreased at 105 stops, increased at 11 stops and were unchanged at five stops system wide.
 
Renthop suggests “close proximity to a train station to ease a work commute isn’t the must-have for apartment hunters that it used to be.”
 
Maybe. But they failed to acknowledge the likely impact closed college campuses had on apartment demand last year.
 
Plus, Renthop doesn't have any stats on how many apartments are not haunted.
 
That’s all for this week. Take good care this weekend and have a logical Leonard Nimoy Day.
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
 
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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