Covid-19 and its effects on Small Business. My story

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COVID mid-term effects on small business.

First, let me start by saying how blessed I feel. My family and friends, up to this point in time, are healthy. I do not personally know anyone who has tested positive with the Corona virus. My family is also blessed in that we are able to provide food, shelter and other necessities without any outside assistance. Lastly, I am blessed to have friends like you who have supported me throughout the years with your purchase or purchases of my art. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for each and every one of you. Thank you all!

My Business on Bay Street

Luckily, I have one of the smaller spaces on Bay Street which collates to one of the cheapest monthly utilities and rent out of all of the available spaces. Saying that, it still costs me $2045 per month just to keep the lights on. Imagine having one of the larger spaces on Bay Street at $4200 and higher in rent alone, no utilities included. Now imagine your small business is your families sole source of income, which is the case for many of our local merchants.

COVID hits hard

Not long after Covid started hitting the States, I was forced into closing down my gallery on March 13th. Historically January and February are slow sales months, March is typically one of the best sales months of the year however not in 2020 with the shutdown. I was closed until May 15th so that's 3 months of slow sales and 2 months of no sales. The bills though as you all know don't skip a beat. Those same 5 months mean I had to pay out over $10,000 in rent and utilities. Yes some landlords and the utility companies allowed for portions of that money to be pushed out however, its not forgiven and sooner or later payment is due. 

What about the Small Business Administration and the PPP program? These programs do help however, you would be surprised to learn what requirements they have in order to qualify for one of their small business loans, especially if you are a sole proprietor. Some are turned down outright and most are only approved for an amount based on your average monthly income times 2.5 from last years taxes. Plus its a loan which means more debt. Very little of the loan is forgiven and the last thing most merchants want is additional debt.

​Isn't everything open now?

Yes it is for the most part. Like I stated above I was able to re-open my gallery on May 15th however, we are limited to a maximum of 50% capacity. That in itself doesn't effect me much since I'm a small gallery but it does eliminate the possibility of doing any art show here in the gallery. Also, the biggest impact is the fact that foot traffic on Bay Street is down about 70% from where it normally is. People are staying home for the most part and sales directly reflect that. Sure people are flocking to Lowes, Walmart, Publix and other necessity businesses but they don't come downtown. 

A good example would be last Friday. The weather was perfect and I was open 11-3pm. During that time I had a total of 2 people who came inside my gallery. Bay street had several open parking spaces and I saw just a handful of people walking down Bay Street. A typical pre-Covid Friday I would get between 25-35 visitors in my gallery and a few sales. As you can see, even though we are authorized to be open it doesn't mean everything is back to normal for our small business merchants.

The scary part out of all of this is we have no idea how much longer this is going to last. My fear is that the longer it continues the effect is going to force several businesses to close permanently. I am already aware of 3 closed or closing and at least 2 that are looking to sell their business, and that's just the ones I am aware of. I am afraid Bay Street will look like it did back when the market crashed and we had 7-8 vacant buildings on Bay Street. 

In closing, I would just simply ask that we each try and do our part in supporting our small businesses thru this extremely difficult time. Our local merchants for worked extremely hard over the years with some of these stores being in operation for over 30 years. It would be difficult to see our Bay Street change so dramatically. A huge shoutout to all of those loyal customers who have continued to shop small and show your love. I know every merchant on the street appreciates all you have done to show your support. You are indeed what makes Beaufort so special. Phil