Nearly 600 businesses between Solvang and San Miguel responded to the second Central Coast Coalition of Chambers COVID-19 impact survey, providing data to back up what Chambers throughout the region are hearing from their members every day.
The survey ran from June 29 – July 8, 2020 and covered topics including general sentiment, financial impacts, general challenges and reopening status of businesses. The first survey from the Coalition was sent out mid-May.
Conditions on the ground
Where possible, many businesses have adapted operations to fit circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis. More than 34% report establishing alternative ways to sell and deliver products and nearly 32% have changed the products/services they offer.
“We’ve seen a 14 point decrease in businesses that reported a more than 50% loss in revenue, which reflects what we’ve been hearing — revenue is up as businesses have reopened with additional health and safety protocols, increasing consumer confidence.” said Jim Dantona, Chair of the Central Coast Coalition of Chambers. “It’s been an unprecedented, challenging time, but the evidence is clear. As long as our community follows health and safety guidance, we can continue down the path of rebuilding our economy, while keeping our residents and community safe.”
The most vulnerable industries once again reported the largest financial hit to their business. 17% of those surveyed in food and beverage hospitality reported a more than 50% decrease in revenue, with lodging and retail both reporting at 9%. And while nearly 31% reported laying off or furloughing at least one employee, many businesses are reopening and looking to bring staff back. However, some are having trouble hiring, with more than 16% reporting having trouble staffing their business.
As in May, an overwhelming majority of respondents reported still feeling unsure and believe that “the economy will be impacted for 6-12 months or longer and will stagnate or show slow growth thereafter”. While those who responded that they are unsure about the future jumped nearly 7 points since May, those who are feeling pessimistic and think “COVID-19 will have lasting impact on the economy and show regression/fall into a lengthy recession” dropped by 4 points.
Respondents’ top three concerns as it relates to the crisis are the negative impact on their job/income/business, not knowing how long the situation will last, and overall public health. In May, the US economy was of higher concern than overall public health, which shows the effect the rising infection numbers have had on the community’s outlook.
Unsurprisingly, revenue/cash flow remains the number one challenge (43%) by a large margin but nearly 54% of respondents report receiving some of all of the federal funding they applied for. In May, only 44% reported receiving funds from the EIDL or PPP loans.
The most promising sign is that 38% of businesses reported being able to open in some fashion, a more than 17 point jump from May. Along similar lines, there was a 9 point increase in ‘fully opened’ businesses a jump from 3% to 12%.
While more than 38% of respondents would describe current conditions for their business as fair, 33% described conditions as good or excellent, more than 15 points up from May’s survey and 4 points from those that described conditions as poor or catastrophic.
When asked how their Chamber could best support them at this time, respondents overwhelmingly responded in favor of advocating for pro-business policies (45%); Promotional support came in a distant second at 23%.
“Even in this new reality, our advocacy continues to be driven by Imagine SLO and we’ve been most focused on the Doers + Dreamers theme, advocating for the needs of businesses, their employees, and their families during this challenging time.” said Hillary Trout, SLO Chamber Board Chair. “Back when we identified the priority of ‘Supporting businesses as they adjust to disruptive shifts’, we were not thinking about global pandemics but that’s what we’ve got so that’s what we are leaning into.”
Recent advocacy includes:
- SLO County Small Business Relief Fund
- Open SLO Program
- Statewide funding for child care
- City of SLO’s Clean Energy Choice Program
- Personal Protective Equipment resource hub