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How the Coronavirus response is affecting revenue at restaurants, retailers, hotels, and other local businesses across the U.S.

March 17, 2020

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) made its way from Asia and Europe to the U.S., the warnings came first and then the fallout. There’s a lot of chatter about coronavirus right now, with stories ranging from how governments and organizations are responding to whether or not the virus will trigger an economic recession. 

Our goal is to track the impact of coronavirus on revenue at small, local businesses across the country. Local businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, accounting for half of domestic GDP and hiring, and businesses like restaurants, hotels, retail shops, salons, and entertainment businesses are likely to be disproportionately affected by the ripple effects as events, schools, businesses, public spaces, and more go on temporary lockdown. 

We’ve been tracking revenue data for local businesses nationwide. In this report, we’ll provide an ongoing analysis of how local business sales are trending in response to COVID-19 spreading in the U.S. 

First, we’ll take a look at how revenue was impacted the week of March 8, 2020, when the U.S. saw an unprecedented number of shutdowns, including:

  • The indefinite suspension of the NBA basketball season, followed by temporary or indefinite suspensions of all NCAA events (including March Madness), MLB spring training and regular season, the NHL season, the PGA Tournament, and more. 
  • The closure of all public schools in a majority of U.S. states.
  • A federal ban on travel to and from a growing number of countries.
  • Restaurants and bars being ordered to close to “takeout only” while other types of businesses are ordered to close entirely.
  • Several states and metro areas issuing “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders.
  • Much, much more.

Let’s dig into the data to see what’s happening at local businesses. First, here’s the 30,000-foot view of year-over-year revenue trends for key business categories, such as restaurants, retail, auto services, health and beauty, and more.

Local business trends in response to coronavirus, nationally

As you can see, sales for most industries were doing well on a year-over-year basis. On average, daily revenue at all businesses in our analysis was outpacing the daily average in 2019.

Of course, not all types of small businesses have been impacted the same way. Some industries (like restaurants and lodging) have seen sales plummet, while others (like grocery stores and sporting goods) have seen sales spike. Which is probably why this view shows small business revenue dropping and rising above 2019’s levels throughout the month of March.

For an even more detailed view, let’s look at what’s happening in specific industries. 

Revenue at local restaurants in response to coronavirus

Restaurants nationwide were doing quite well during early February, seeing daily revenue up by as much as 57% in 2020 vs 2019.

By late February through early March, revenue had slowed to near 2019 levels. And even by Wednesday, March 11th, restaurants across the country seemed mostly unaffected by coronavirus fears.

As you can see, though, the following Thursday signaled the beginning of a nationwide downward trend for revenue at local restaurants. Average revenue has plummeted each day, dropping to around 30% below 2019’s figures by the weekend of Friday, March 13th, then all the way down to more than minus 68% by Sunday, March 22nd.

It’s worth noting that our research revealed Chinese food restaurants had begun to experience huge drops in revenue far earlier than other restaurants. Check out our March 12th article to learn more.

Revenue at local bars and lounges in response to coronavirus

Bars and lounges were doing exceptionally well to start 2020. Average revenue was up consistently throughout the beginning of the year, and by late February all the way through nearly mid-March, bars were pulling in 10 to 20% more revenue each day than during the same period in 2019.

Again, though, things changed in a hurry. Thursday, March 12th saw revenue drop 6% below 2019’s average, and by Sunday, March 15th, sales had dropped to 36% below 2019’s figures.

Interestingly, you can see sales rebounded slightly on St. Patrick’s Day. But considering that a St. Paddy’s Day Tuesday this year still under performed what was just a Tuesday in mid-March in 2019, it’s not an understatement to say that the United States just had its slowest St. Patrick’s Day ever.

Revenue dropped throughout the following week, as more states enacted mandatory shutdowns and “stay at home” policies. By Sunday, March 22nd, revenue was down 66% compared to 2019. And while revenue did bounce up to a 38% increase on the following Monday, it’s clear that local bars have a long and difficult road ahead.

Read more: How COVID-19 is impacting sales at local restaurants and bars across the country

Revenue at local lodging places in response to coronavirus

Average daily revenue at local lodging places paints a more dire picture than at any other industry.

Lodging places were already behind 2019’s pace throughout January and February. By the beginning of the week of Monday, March 9th, however, average daily revenue began a precipitous drop, cratering to consistently more than an 80% decrease by the week of Monday, March 16th.

As you can imagine, local businesses in the tourism industry stand to be some of the most negatively affected businesses in the country. For a closer look, read our article on how COVID-19 has been impacting hotels, motels, and other lodging places.

Revenue at local grocery stores in response to coronavirus

One industry that is experiencing a different kind of anxiety in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak is grocery stores.

Revenue was up throughout the end of February, but as you can see, things began to increase even more in March, then spiked significantly on the 13th. By Monday, March 16th, grocery stores across the country averaged a 103% increase in average revenue compared to 2019.

Locals have clearly been inundating nearby grocery stores in the face of self-quarantines, social distancing, and potential issues in the global supply chain.

And while sales dropped to more moderate increases by the week of Monday, March 24th, we expect to regional spikes as more states impose “stay at home orders” in the future.

While this means increases in revenue at local grocery stores, it has also brought challenges at keeping inventory in stock, particularly for hot-ticket items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Read more: How COVID-19 has impacted sales at local grocery stores and supermarkets.

Revenue at local retail shops in response to coronavirus

Local retail stores haven’t yet appeared to suffer the same kind of major impacts as other industries. Not yet, at least. By the weekend of Friday, March 13th, revenue had begun a downward trend, only to rebound the following week.

So far, the trend appears to be slower-than average weekends for retail shops, and slightly busier than average weekdays.

This is a wide-ranging category that includes everything from flower and gift shops to furniture stores, from bookstores to guns and ammo shops, and a whole lot more. So some types of businesses may have felt the pinch earlier than others. But as a whole, Americans didn’t appear to be avoiding retail shops in the immediate wake of major shutdowns and shelter in place orders.

Stay tuned to this chart as the days progress.

Revenue at local arts and entertainment businesses in response to coronavirus

As large group gatherings have been canceled across the country, we’ve seen major movie releases get delayed, concerts get postponed, and major events get canceled.

As a result, arts and entertainment businesses started a pretty serious downward trend in revenue starting at the beginning of the month of March. Revenue has continued a steep drop, seeing multiple days where revenue dropped to below 100% compared to 2019.

How does revenue drop below 100%? The answer: refunds. As theaters and venues across the country have had to cancel upcoming shows and issue refunds, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more sub-100% drops in the coming weeks and months.

Stay up to date with our continued coverage on the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on local businesses

Each of the charts in this article will be updated on a daily basis, so feel free to revisit regularly to evaluate the continued impact of coronavirus on local businesses.

You can also see more insights and observations in the articles below:

If you own a small business that is struggling due to COVID-19

Womply is acting as a facilitator to connect American small businesses to SBA-authorized lenders to get emergency loans for COVID-19 relief. Learn more here , or call us at 855-208-8813 for a free consultation”

Need capital fast? Small businesses can get $1,000 of interest-free, no-fee emergency capital in about 24 hours, with flexible repayment terms. No credit check, no strings attached.

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