COVID-19

As people stay at home, small businesses struggle

Justin Ho Mar 12, 2020
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Small businesses rely on foot traffic, which is noticeably down during the coronavirus pandemic. Pierre Verdy/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

As people stay at home, small businesses struggle

Justin Ho Mar 12, 2020
Small businesses rely on foot traffic, which is noticeably down during the coronavirus pandemic. Pierre Verdy/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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It’s a little before noon Thursday at Rothmans, an upscale menswear shop that sells suits, casual wear, and offers custom tailoring. The store’s been open for a couple hours, and things have been quiet.

“There’s really no foot traffic,” said co-owner Ken Giddon. “We’ve had a couple of appointments that came in, but we’re in a spot here where we can really watch Union Square. As I’m standing here, there’s literally nobody walking down the streets,” Giddon said.

The dropoff in foot traffic is a clear sign that the coronavirus is starting to affect the real economy. Businesses are seeing a drop in foot traffic as people stay at home. Cities, states and the federal government have started to announce plans to help small businesses keep their doors open.

Rothmans has been cutting back on orders to make sure it doesn’t have too much inventory. Ken’s brother, co-owner Jim Giddon, said they’re also reaching out to customers they know who might want to buy something. Still, he said it’s a careful balancing act.

“You have to be respectful of the customers, because they’re all going through the same thing we’re going through,” Jim Giddon said.

About an hour later, a couple of shoppers had trickled in, but traffic wasn’t much better. At one point, Jim Giddon and another employee tried ordering more hand sanitizer, without avail.

That’s our number one priority now, to try and find supplies to keep our customers healthy, and keep us healthy,” Jim Giddon said.

By 1:30 p.m., store traffic still hadn’t improved. Ken Giddon says revenue is down roughly 60% to 80% compared to this time a year ago.

Rothmans has been around for decades, and has withstood other disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy and the Sept. 11 attacks. But the uncertainty of coronavirus right now has him concerned for his 28 employees.

“What do you do when the decision is do you go out of business or try and pay your employees,” Ken Giddon said. “We’re not there, but if this thing lasts four months, we’ll be there. This week, New York City announced zero-interest loans for small businesses seeing big drops in revenue. Ken Giddon has already applied.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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