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It’s no surprise that many small businesses are hurting. According to the latest figures from the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey, nearly 44% of respondents saw a moderate decline due to the pandemic. But what does that look like in practice?
Last year, Marketplace followed three small businesses through the holiday retail season. We checked back in with those business owners to see how the pandemic has shaped the way they worked. The following are transcripts, lightly edited for clarity.
“Our planners are basically our key item every year. And this year, we’re having to order them even farther in advance than we normally would just to make sure that we have these planners on time. And I’m honestly a little bit worried. This is our first year ordering inventory through a boat. And that takes a really long time. But, you know, we’re at this point that’s like, even a little bit more secure than getting things on a plane.
“I think the health of so many industries also impacts the well-being of my business. Like everything is interconnected, and I think that things just take longer because of sourcing. So I think there really is this trickle effect, or like, everything just feels so related. So I think no business or no industry is really totally immune to this.”
“So business in the last week has been pretty good. We have customers walking in, we have website orders, we have phone orders. It also doesn’t feel really normal, and comparing this past week to last year, for example, we are at about 50% of normal.
“We have been considered essential because we’re a food supplier. When the pandemic hit in March, we did curbside. So we didn’t have any walk-in traffic, but our website orders just went through the roof. So I think investing in our website now is really something that will be helpful for us.
“When I’m working at our downtown Portland location, I do feel like things are coming back. So I see a lot more people walking by the store. I see a lot more people coming into the store. So things feel like they’re coming back to life a little bit right now.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of foot traffic. The store’s been very busy. We are limiting the number of people that can come in, and require a mask, and we have a hand-sanitizing station outside before you enter. Rods have been one of the toughest things to get. One, the demand is high, but also the supply’s very low. A lot of my manufacturers are U.S.-made rods [in] Washington state, Wisconsin. And so you can imagine, you know, they were going through, you know, a shutdown.
“You just never have seen so many people want to go fishing. Families were taking their kids. They needed something to do, and outdoors was the ticket.
“Our business was actually better than it would have been last year. So I don’t know if that’s sustainable. I just hope it levels off to a normal level and doesn’t go below that. I know that’s a wordy answer.”
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