As many struggle, some small businesses are thriving during COVID-19
Thursday, May 28, 2020
For a pandemic that has been particularly bad for small businesses across the country, some sectors of the economy are using these months as a revival of sorts. As the demands of consumers have changed, some stagnant industries are getting a second chance.
Economists have noted this trend is not uncommon in times like these. In nearly every major economic downturn, there are some small businesses that manage to provide exactly what the economy needs. Rashmi Menon, an economist at the University of Michigan, said that Airbnb, Uber and Venmo are all products of an economic crisis.
“Downturns or challenging times are seen as good times (for some) business for two reasons,” Menon said. “One is, there is less competition for resources. The second reason is that whatever changes we face, positive or negative, bring up new customer needs. And customer needs are at the core of any business.”
In 2020, delivery services and cleaning services have benefitted the most. Crystal Hughey, a co-owner of a cleaning service in Ohio, said her business has seen some of its greatest numbers since the pandemic arose. Ryan Van Orden, an owner of a similar company in New Hampshire, echoed that call.
“Our clients want more frequent deep cleanings," Van Orden said. "We are hiring to make sure we can deal with the demand."
Most delivery services are also hiring. But growth for small businesses has not been limited to these two sectors. Other essential services, such as canned and jarred food companies, meal prep delivery services and grocery stores, have also seen an uptick.
The president of the National Grocers Association, Greg Ferrara, indicated that with fewer people ordering from restaurants, it has created a larger demand that he can remember. While many restaurants are still doing takeout, consumers have opted for the cheaper and more isolated option of making food at home.
“Independent grocers are helping larger chains meet demand during this time and grocery stores are being restocked at unprecedented speeds,” Ferrara said in an interview with NBC.
Some socially distanced forms of entertainment have also been on the rise. It has been well-documented that drive-in movie theaters have gone back in style. Americans in particular have been looking for safer forms of interaction and ways to get out of the home.
Beau Bianchi, an owner of a drive-in movie theater in California, has said his business has been ready to meet the moment, even if he didn’t see it coming.
“(Our business) has been a welcome relief for families and adults looking for a little getaway from the house,” Bianchi said. “We’ve been trying to let people know that we have a safe environment and offer a little escape.”
But perhaps the industry that has seen the largest increase in the entertainment sector has been wine and liquor stores. Bars in most places have been closed for almost two months now, leading to the obvious transition.
Whether these trends continue as shelter-in-place orders are eased across the country remains to be seen. As of now, though, these industries are hiring and growing at rates most workers have not seen.
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