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Data  

Report: How California restaurants, bars, supermarkets and other businesses are being impacted by COVID-19

March 18, 2020

In this article:

  • How are sales at local restaurants, bars, lodging places, retail shops, and supermarkets across California faring amid the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • We drill down and look at revenue for the same business types in the bay area and in Los Angeles, as well.

On January 25th, the CDC announced its confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state of California. The case was only the third in the entire country, making California one of the first major epicenters of what has now become a global pandemic. 

The Womply Research team has been analyzing revenue trends at millions of small, local businesses across the country. We’re trying to size up the COVID-19 crisis’ impact on local businesses like restaurants, retail shops, lodging places, salons, entertainment venues, and more.

California has been under a state of emergency since March 4th, and cities around the state have been implementing serious restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. This report examines exactly *how big* the impact is for California businesses. 

About this report: The charts below automatically update every day. They show a daily view of average 2020 revenue for California businesses in a particular category compared to the closest day of the week in 2019. 

Check back regularly to see how the local business economy in California is faring. 

Small business sales in California started trending down in mid-March

The chart below shows all revenue for all small business categories across California. As you can see, sales were actually quite strong through February and even into March, despite some spikiness that is to be expected when looking at multiple categories. 

Things appeared to have really changed, though, during the weekend of March 13th.

Of course, not all industries are being hit the same, nor is every region in the state. Let’s take a look at major industries across California, as well as in Los Angeles and in the bay area.

California restaurants have been hurt by COVID-19 since early March

As you can see, restaurants began to suffer a slowdown in sales right around the time California declared a state of emergency on March 4th.

CA restaurant sales, YTD

Sales took a particularly steep drop during the second week of the month, as confirmed cases in California began to grow, and major events like the suspension of the NBA season hit the news.

By the weekend of March 21-22, after several California counties had enacted shelter in place orders, restaurant revenue had dropped to a 75% decrease statewide.

Bay area restaurants, as you can imagine, have been hit especially hard.

Bay area restaurant sales, YTD

Restaurants in and around San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose started the month pulling 8% less revenue than in 2019. By the weekend of March 13th, sales had plummeted to nearly 40% less than the year before.

After bay area counties enacted a “shelter in place” ordinance on March 17th, revenue dropped to around 75% below 2019’s averages.

Now let’s take a look at Los Angeles area restaurants.

Los Angeles restaurant sales, YTD

LA restaurants actually saw sales hovering around 2019’s numbers through the first week of March. Then, on March 10th, sales began a precipitous drop that hit 77% below 2019’s figures shortly after the Los Angeles area issued their own shelter in place order.

California bars have also been hit hard

The trendline for bars across the state has been pretty spiky all year, swinging between near 20% increases and dropping to near 40% decreases compared to 2020.

CA bar/lounge sales, YTD

The trends in the bay area look quite similar to those in the state as a whole.

Bay area bar/lounge sales, YTD

Sales at bay area bars were also spiky to start the year, but consistently quite high. Even as late as Friday, March 6th, bay area bars did 7.5% better than in 2019, signaling a reluctance among locals to stay away from bars even as fears of the virus began to mount.

That sentiment appears to have shifted rapidly by the following weekend, though. On Friday, March 13th, sales had plummeted to 28% below 2019’s numbers. Now that locals are under “shelter in place,” we’ve seen sales dip as low at 75% below 2019’s figures.

LA area bars, on the other hand, appear to have struggled most of the year.

Los Angeles area bar/lounge sales, YTD

Aside from the occasional huge spike in revenue through mid-February, sales have mostly lagged behind 2019’s figures. Sales dropped steadily starting the weekend of March 9th, all the way to an 80% decrease by March 22nd.

California hotels and motels have been in a free-fall since March 4th

The travel industry in California is massive, and COVID-19 stands to wreak havoc on local hotels and motels across the state. 

CA lodging sales, YTD

Here, you can see a dramatic free fall in sales at lodging places statewide starting around the time declaration of a state of emergency in California on March 4th. Since then, businesses plummeted all the way to a 99% drop by March 24th.

The softening travel and tourism market has been especially brutal to bay area hotels and motels.

Bay area lodging sales, YTD

Revenue has been consistently low for bay area hotels and motels since mid-January, and have only gotten worse from there. Sales at lodging places started the month of March 18% behind 2019’s averages during the same time, and quickly dropped to a 106% decrease by the week of March 16th. (A +100% drop in revenue is due to a combination of low sales + hotels and motels issuing refunds on deposits and/or reservations).

Los Angeles area hotels and motels, on the other hand, were doing pretty well until March.

Los Angeles area lodging sales, YTD

As late as March 4th, hotels and motels in LA were doing 12% better than in 2019. Then, in the wake of announcements of major attractions in the LA area closing up (Disneyland chief among them), sales fell off a cliff.

California’s important arts, entertainment, and sports businesses have been severely impacted

Arts, entertainment, and sports businesses are incredibly influential in California, and in Los Angeles in particular. Given self-imposed, and mandated, “social distancing” policies, it’s not surprising that local businesses in those industries have seen significant revenue erosion throughout 2020. 

CA arts, entertainment, and sports sales, YTD

The data at bay area arts, entertainment, and sports businesses is thrown off somewhat by a few major spikes in increased revenue throughout the year. However, you can see an unmistakable sharp downward trend throughout March.

Bay area arts, entertainment, and sports sales, YTD

We expect to see these trends continue as long as the bay area remains in “shelter in place.”

Let’s take a look at Los Angeles.

Los Angeles area arts, entertainment, and sports sales, YTD

Los Angeles area businesses experienced a pair of major increases that also throws the scale off on the chart below, but again, you can see a massive drop in revenue starting on March 10th. March 17th marked a day when LA area sports and entertainment businesses and venues issued massive amounts of refunds, as sales dropped all the way to 191% below 2019’s figures.

Supermarkets are a bright spot

Of course, in times of crisis some businesses are decimated while others are overrun. Supermarkets and grocery stores in California have seen consistent year-over-year gains in 2020 as people stock up against potential long-term isolation scenarios. 

CA state grocery sales, YTD

Bay area grocery stores, meanwhile, experienced a far more dramatic story:

Bay area grocery sales, YTD

On Monday, March 16th, bay area counties announced their “shelter in place” ordinance, set to begin on midnight March 17th. The result of that announcement was a jaw dropping 495% increase in sales at bay area grocery stores as locals cleared the shelves to prepare for three weeks indoors.

Los Angeles area grocery stores have also seen big increases in sales, but not nearly to the same extent as those around the bay area.

You see a huge spike here on Monday, March 16th, after the bay area announced their shelter in place order, and then again on the 19th, once Los Angeles issued their own.

Just the beginning for turbulent times in the Golden State

California is the most populous state in the U.S., and home to the tech and entertainment capitols of the country. As COVID-19 spreads, small businesses across California, and in its major metropolitan areas in particular, are likely to continue to struggle. Especially as the state continues to “shelter in place” in order to combat the spread of the virus.

We will update the data in this post on a daily basis and add analysis as the story changes. In the meantime, we’re rooting for local businesses in California and across the country to weather the storm. 

If you run a business, check out Stimulus2020.com for free resources and access to no-interest, no-fee business capital in about 24 hours, with flexible repayment terms. 

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