Small business sales volume up as COVID-19 restrictions ease

The NFIB Research Center announced Tuesday a new survey on the state of small business as governments begin easing COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders.

The survey of about 631 small business owners found many of them are experiencing strong sales as a result.

Nearly 30% of owners said they had a moderate to significant increase in sales as restrictions lifted, with the same amount reporting a slight increase and 42% saying levels haven’t changed. Nearly 40% of respondents said sales volume has been 75% or more than pre-crisis levels and 10% reported the volume at 1-25%, compared to 16% a month ago.

“By small steps, New Jersey is gradually reopening, with retail stores and outdoor dining last week, personal services this week and limited indoor dining slated just before Independence Day, which is slowly improving revenue,” Eileen Kean, New Jersey state director, said. “But small businesses will not suddenly return to normal and many business owners tell us they don’t expect to be where they were before the pandemic until 2021.”

The number of small business owners applying for the U.S. Small Business Administration‘s Paycheck Protection Program loan is up slightly over the last two weeks, as 81% of respondents applied for a loan, compared to May 29’s 77%. Of those that applied, almost all (97%) have received their loan and over half (59%) are taking advantage of an extended 24-week forgiveness period.

“Small businesses are entering the fourth month of economic crisis and are still experiencing a heavy amount of uncertainty and complications,” Holly Wade, NFIB director of research & policy analysis, said. “Now that owners have more flexibility in using their PPP loan, they can focus on adjusting business operations accordingly as states loosen business restrictions.”

Some owners have reported they need to adjust their workforce to reflect the current environment, with 14% of PPP loan borrowers expecting to go through layoffs after using the loan. Nearly half expect to layoff one or two employees and 12% anticipate a reduction of 10 or more.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan is another avenue small businesses are taking in the current climate, with 35% of respondents having applied.

Even though economic conditions have improved for many, those that applied for a PPP loan or EIDL, or both, anticipate needing more financial support over the next year. Most owners (56%) expect they will need less than $50,000 and 27% expect needing more than $100,000.

About 41% of respondents are knowledgeable with the new tax deferment provision, but only 6% have taken advantage of it. Of those who haven’t deferred their taxes, 5% plan to and 31% said maybe.

In all, the crisis has required significant change to business operations for 23% of owners and a moderate change for 32%. About 30% have had to modify slightly, and 16% haven’t changed a thing.

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