Small businesses face difficult end of the year due to COVID
The last three months of the year are usually a boom time for many small businesses thanks to Christmas shopping and celebrations, but this time they look precarious as the coronavirus has paralyzed much of the economy.
Homeowners grapple with government-imposed restrictions due to the coronavirus or low demand as they try to stay afloat, with some creating new products and services, or desperately looking for new customers.
The big parties and corporate events that Sophia D'Angelo hosted before the outbreak are all but gone. The fourth quarter was always the bulk of my business, says D'Angelo, owner of the Boston Experiential Group.
Now she's had to get creative - she's using her expertise to host small gatherings like Christmas-themed dinners and house parties, usually for no more than 10 guests.
The coronavirus has devastated many small businesses in the United States - an estimated hundreds of thousands have already closed forever. And many of them are expected to struggle this quarter, especially as COVID-19 cases rise in some areas of the country. More businesses, restaurants and retailers in particular, are likely to go out of business, if they cannot generate the income they need.
The impact of social distancing can be seen in the restaurant sales figures: the National Restaurant Association reported that 70% of its affiliates suffered a drop in revenue during August from the previous year.
Barking Irons, an apple brandy maker, relies heavily on New York City bars, restaurants, and liquor stores for its business. The business typically earns half of its revenue in the fourth quarter.
But social life in the city remains limited by the pandemic. Restaurants can receive only a quarter of their capacity indoors and there is no bar service. And while cookouts can go on indefinitely, it's hard to predict how many people will be willing to endure the cold, even with a brandy to warm them up.
Canceling weddings, parties, formal dinners and other social events means there is less need for invitations and other products from Dulles Designs, a creator of luxury printed stationery. But the company has found a lifeline.
Owner Emilie Dulles says that printed Christmas cards that seemed outdated in recent years are suddenly popular again with individuals and businesses. His clients say the pandemic has made them rethink how to stay in touch. Like never before, they are now sending out cards, for example for Thanksgiving, and some recipient lists may include hundreds or even thousands of names.
They're trying to connect with people they haven't seen in years, Dulles says.
The businesswoman believes that the change in business in the fourth quarter will help offset the loss of income from weddings and events. But Dulles doesn't want to rush to hire his usual contingent of seasonal workers just yet.
We're going to take a look and see how the next few weeks go, she said.