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Is the Tide Beginning to Turn?

tides rolling

For the fifth week, UPS has conducted a study intended to measure the impact of COVID-19 on small and medium-sized businesses across the United States — this installment went to more than 740 U.S.-based respondents between April 22 and April 27.

Glimmers of hope emerged in the data this week, as some businesses may have trudged past the bottom of the trough and started to climb the upward slope toward recovery.

The number of respondents negatively impacted by the pandemic declined significantly, down from 81 percent to 76 percent this week. The number of businesses experiencing a decrease in sales also saw a decline, down from a peak of 90 percent to 84 percent.

This positive trend in sales is due in part to businesses beginning to reopen. The number of respondents reporting either business closures or reduced capacity peaked at 58 percent last week. Now that number is down to 54 percent, with the bulk of that change coming from businesses no longer outright closed.

This is the first drop in business closures and capacity reductions since our coronavirus survey launched.

Preparing to reopen

Looking forward, the data indicates this positive trend of businesses reopening will continue during the next month. Half of all respondents expect to remain closed or operating at reduced capacity in 15 days, but in 30 days, that figure drops to 39 percent.

As they anticipate getting back to work, SMBs are now focusing on ensuring their physical locations are ready to reopen for business.

Among respondents, 52 percent indicated they plan to implement social distancing practices at their business for both employees and customers. Similarly, 51 percent are planning new strategies for ongoing virus prevention.

One respondent even stated that they are scaling down plans for the remainder of this year and next year to prioritize team health and wellness over business growth.

“Half of all respondents expect to remain closed or operating at reduced capacity in 15 days, but in 30 days, that figure drops to 39 percent.”

Moving toward a post-coronavirus world

While nearly half of businesses surveyed anticipate that sales forecasting will be a challenge given the uncertain market conditions, few expect a post-COVID sales surge they are unable to accommodate (18 percent).

Nonetheless, businesses have begun preparing their inventory. Some have products they are ready to sell, but others are struggling to keep items in stock: Nearly four in 10 now experience difficulties replenishing their inventory.

As one respondent noted, “Customers want my product, but I can't get it.”

These supply chain challenges may persist as businesses move toward the post-COVID environment, but within this problem lies another sign of optimism: There is pent-up customer demand that may help fuel an economic recovery.

UPS will deploy this survey every week to monitor the continuously evolving influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on small and medium-sized businesses.

Read part one, part two, part three and part four in this small business series.

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