Alignable survey: Small businesses' efforts to rebound thwarted

TREND TRACKER | DATA INSIGHTS | Boston, MA -- Despite recently reported peaks in several Omicron surges, this latest COVID variant continues to worry small business owners, many of whom experienced a recovery reversal this month. Omicron has already left its mark on 53% of small business owners in the U.S. and 57% in Canada, who say it hurt their January revenues.

Even worse, 1% of U.S. small businesses and 4% in Canada have been forced to shut down due to Omicron. And those owners are unsure when they’ll be able to reopen.

Beyond that, 17% of SMBs in the U.S. and 25% in Canada declared that the variant’s negative impact was “very significant.”

That’s all according to Alignable’s January Omicron Poll of 6,218 small business owners conducted from 1/15/22 to 1/25/22, which is just now being released.

Omicron-reduced revenues reverse recoveries
Overall, last month, 43% of all small businesses across the U.S. and Canada reported earning as much, if not more, monthly revenue than they generated prior to COVID.  Much of this good fortune was attributed to increased consumer spending for the holidays. And that 43% recovery rate represented a jump of 16% over November’s figure of 27%, so it was very encouraging news at the time.

However, small businesses have slumped back down again in January, from the high of 43% being fully recovered to just 31% in January.

So, in just three months, small business owners had a 16% lift from November to December, but swung backward with a 12% decrease in January, largely due to Omicron, but also in part to skyrocketing inflation, ongoing labor shortages, and other related issues.
Omicron Fears: 23% Higher Now Than In Dec.

Beyond the percentages of businesses that are already affected by Omicron, stats around increasing fears are up, too, by 23%, comparing our December and January polls.

In December, 44% of all small business owners said they worried Omicron would negatively impact their business recovery – and 44% predicted it would have no effect and they “weren’t worried at all.”

Even as some areas are seeing Omicron case numbers decline, more small businesses fear its short-term and long-term effects than they did when it was just starting to spread in late November/early December.

As of this week, a monumental 67% said they feared it would hurt their recovery, up 23% from December. And only 27% said they weren’t worried at all – down 17% from December.

Many business owners noted that it can be comforting to hear that Omicron cases are declining, but that doesn't mean their customers, revenues, and staffers will all of a sudden be restored.  As we've seen with other surges and retreats, the problems left in their wake can become cumulative and can linger for months, if not longer.

Omicron hurts 90% of entertainers and 80% of restaurants
As you can see from the graph above, Omicron issues have been widespread across a variety of sectors. Nine out of 10 small business owners in the entertainment industry (from people running a theater to performers entertaining at big events) have lost income during this extended Omicron phase.

Similarly, 80% of restaurants said they’ve already been hurt by the variant. Staffing has been an issue for most of the year, but its severity increased as more staffers contracted COVID and had to call in sick.

Also, customer numbers were down because of widespread Omicron cases, as well as the escalated fear of catching it in enclosed spaces like restaurants, theaters, offices, and more.

Beyond entertainment and restaurants, look at the percentages of small business owners in other industries suffering Omicron-induced setbacks:

  •     71% of event planners
  •     68% of gym owners
  •     67% of travel pros
  •     66% of massage therapists
  •     65% of manufacturers
  •     63% of beauty salon owners
  •     61% of nonprofits
  •     59% of transportation service providers
  •     52% of retailers

Full business shutdowns were reported by 1% to 4% of small business owners in these industries. These are significant considering that there are 30 million+ small businesses at any given time, so even a 1% shutdown rate means 300,000 businesses have already been temporarily (or permanently) lost due to Omicron.

While restaurants and travel agencies reported a 1% shutdown rate, industries reporting shutdown rates of 3% or even 4% included gyms, entertainment companies, manufacturers, and massage therapists.

New York, New Jersey and Ontario most-affected by Omicron
Looking closely at different geographies, New Jersey (64%) and New York (60%) top the list of the states where small businesses were negatively impacted by Omicron.

How Omicron has hurt businesses in key states and provinces
Other states where the majority of our poll-takers said their businesses suffered negative effects were Michigan (58%), California (57%), Illinois (56%), Washington (56%), Ohio (54%), Massachusetts (53%), Maryland (53%), and Virginia (51%). And 50% of small businesses in North Carolina reported issues based on Omicron.

The states that still saw some significant Omicron-related issues among their small businesses, but were not as affected as other areas, included: Pennsylvania (49%), Colorado (48%), Florida (46%), Texas (43%), and Georgia (42%).

In Canada, where 57% reported the damaging effects of Omicron on their businesses, Ontario's small businesses are in the worst shape, as 63% say they have suffered hardships from the COVID variant. Issues are still quite significant, but less severe in British Columbia (50%), and Alberta (45%).

For more details about other states, provinces, or industries not listed in this report, please reach out to me directly at [email protected]. To see past polls, go to the Alignable Research Center.

Alignable is the largest online referral network for small businesses with 7 million+ members across North America.

We established our research center in early March 2020, to track and report the impact of the Coronavirus on small businesses, and to monitor recovery efforts, informing the media, policymakers, and our members.


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