Report: are sales at Wisconsin restaurants, salons, bars, and other businesses recovering from COVID-19?

Like every state in the country, Wisconsin has been hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic. While the state hasn’t experienced an outbreak as large as neighboring states Illinois and Michigan, the toll on public health and the local economy has been significant.

Wisconsin has also frequently found itself in the national spotlight as a result of large protests against Governor Tony Evers “Safer at Home” order, and various restrictions placed on local businesses meant to slow the spread of the outbreak.

Most prominently, on May 13th, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court struck down the Governor’s “Safer at Home” order as unconstitutional.

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, supermarkets, entertainment venues, and more.

We decided to take a closer look at Wisconsin to see whether Wisconsinites are still playing it safe and staying home, or if the State Supreme Court’s decision resulted in a surge in sales at local businesses. 

This report examines exactly *how much* Wisconsin businesses have been impacted by the spread of the virus, by efforts to contain it, and early easing of those restrictions.

About this report: The charts below automatically update every day. They show a daily view of average 2020 revenue for Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin is faring. 

How many Wisconsin businesses have stopped transacting entirely?

First, we wanted to see what percentage of different types of Wisconsin businesses stopped transacting entirely during the coronavirus outbreak, and when they were able to open back up again.

Here’s what we did in order to learn how many businesses have closed due to the coronavirus:

  1. We analyzed credit card transaction data at businesses who were regularly transacting between January 1, 2020, and March 1, 2020
  2. A business was designated as “closed” if it didn’t process a single transaction for three straight days starting on March 1
  3. If, after that three day period, the business processed a transaction, they are no longer considered closed and we back-update previous dates to represent that business as being “open”
  4. An important note: Restaurants who have shifted to processing 100% of their transactions via third party delivery apps (like Doordash, Grubhub, etc.) would also show as being “closed” by this metric

Taking the above requirements into account, here’s a look at how many local businesses in multiple categories have stopped processing transactions since the start of the coronavirus outbreak:

Note: if viewing on mobile, rotate device to landscape for best viewing experience of the charts in this article

Closure rate at businesses in Wisconsin:

A few notable dates for Wisconsin businesses when evaluating the charts in this report:

  • 3/12 – Governor Evers declares a State of Emergency
  • 3/17 – Statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people
  • 3/24 – closure of all non-essential businesses
  • 4/16 – “Safer at Home” order extended until 5/26
  • 5/13 – Wisconsin State Supreme Court overturns “Safer at Home” order, allowing non-essential businesses to re-open

How has COVID-19 impacted revenue at local businesses in Wisconsin?

The section above showed us how many businesses were forced to shut down entirely, and how many have been able to return to business. But we also wanted to see how the outbreak has impacted consumer spending and revenue.

There are two ways we can examine the economic impact of coronavirus on local businesses: 

  • First, is the impact on total consumer spending in a given category (the increase or decrease in total dollars spent on businesses overall). 
  • Second, is the impact on average revenue at those businesses who are still open and doing business.
  • We will be looking at both views in each of the charts below.

Impact of coronavirus on total spending at Wisconsin restaurants

This chart examines total revenue at Wisconsin restaurants in our analysis in 2020 compared to total revenue at restaurants on a similar day in 2019.

As you can see, total spending at Wisconsin restaurants plummeted in mid-March, and has been slow to recover. Even after the state supreme court lifted the Governor’s “safer at home” order.

Impact of coronavirus on average revenue at open and transacting restaurants in Wisconsin

This chart includes only data from restaurants that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open restaurants vs. a comparable day in 2019.

Those restaurants who have remained open and transacting have been hit hard, with revenue down consistently more than 20% below 2019’s figures.

Impact of coronavirus on total spending at Wisconsin bars and lounges

This chart examines total revenue at Wisconsin bars and lounges in our analysis in 2020 compared to total revenue at bars and lounges on a similar day in 2019.

As you can see in the closure rate chart at the beginning of this article, over half of all Wisconsin bars and lounges were closed by March 24th. As a result, total spending at local bars and lounges plummeted. On weekends, when bars are typically busiest, total revenue was down by as much as 94% compared to a similar day in 2019.

As more bars have opened their doors, total revenue on weekends has rebounded somewhat, but remains far behind 2019’s figures.

Impact of coronavirus on average revenue at open and transacting bars in Wisconsin

This chart includes only data from bars and lounges that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open bars and lounges vs. a comparable day in 2019.

Examining average revenue at open and transacting bars and lounges reveals much larger swings between weekends and weekdays. This shows that even those bars who have been able to remain open during the pandemic have still seen dramatic drops in average revenue on the days they rely on most.

Impact of coronavirus on total spending at health and beauty businesses in Wisconsin

This chart examines total revenue at Wisconsin health and beauty businesses in our analysis in 2020 compared to total revenue at health and beauty businesses on a similar day in 2019.

Health and beauty businesses such as hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, and massage parlors, have become something of a symbol of the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. And, as you can see from our total consumer spending chart, it’s easy to see why.

Total consumer spending at Wisconsin health and beauty businesses dropped to basically zero on March 21st. Even after the State Supreme Court overturned the Governor’s “safer at home” orders on May 13th, consumer spending is still around 50% lower than in 2019.

Impact of coronavirus on average revenue at open and transacting Wisconsin health and beauty businesses

This chart includes only data from health and beauty businesses that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open health and beauty businesses vs. a comparable day in 2019.

While total consumer spending at health and beauty businesses shows that Wisconsinites are still mostly avoiding returning to their local salons, those businesses who have been able to reopen their doors, have actually seen a significant bounce back in average revenue.

Keep an eye on this post to measure the impact of Wisconsin’s decision to “open up”

Despite multiple public protests to “open up” Wisconsin, and the State Supreme Court’s dramatic decision to overturn the Governor’s “safer at home” order, local businesses in the Badger State still appear to be struggling. 

We will update the data in this post on a daily basis and add analysis as the story changes. So check back frequently to see if Wisconsin businesses start to turn a corner as the days and months continue.

In the meantime, we’re rooting for local businesses in Wisconsin and across the country to weather the storm. 

Visit our COVID-19 research and resources page for more reports on the impact of coronavirus on local businesses

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