A month-long survey by Eastern Arizona College’s Small Business Development Center looked to measure the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and the results are in.
The survey was distributed to small business owners in Graham, Greenlee and Gila from May 12 through June 11.
“In talking with a lot of businesses, we had a pretty good idea what some of the biggest struggles and hurdles were,” said SBDC Director Kevin Peck. “This survey just gave us verification; we didn’t find any great surprises.”
Over 80 percent of businesses answering the survey said the pandemic had a moderate to major impact. Lost sales revenue and supply chain problems were the biggest problems they reported. Fifty-seven percent of businesses reported losing at least 21 percent of their revenue.
“The impact on the supply chain was probably the biggest surprise we had,” said Peck, “the ability of small businesses to get products for their business. Our restaurants’ ability to get food was very limited on some products; many had to go to a limited menu.”
Responding businesses reported no significant layoffs. Most said their labor costs didn’t change in that time; only 16 percent laid off employees.
“Our businesses did everything they could to keep people on the payroll,” Peck said.
As small businesses look ahead, their concerns include COVID-19-related lawsuits and loss of funding sources — whether it’s being able to repay loans in a time of lower revenues or finding a lender at all.
In response to the survey results, the SBDC is offering two webinars for current or aspiring small business owners — ReBuild, in partnership with the City of Globe, and Virtual DreamBuilder.
“With the ReBuild program, we’ll be helping businesses figure out how to restructure, repivot, reorganize or rebuild moving forward — how to work through COVID-19 challenges so their business comes back stronger and more resilient,” said Peck.
The program will have 10 sessions, from June 24 through Aug. 26.
DreamBuilder is a course for women interested in starting their own business, guiding them through the basics of business and helping them create a business plan. Switching to an online program this year, it will run from June 22 to July 23.
“It’s such a relief for businesses to be open again,” said Graham County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vance Bryce. “The statewide COVID-19 closure strained resources for our independent businesses, their owners and their employees.”
“If this virus acts like all past pandemics, we’ll see a resurgence of cases this fall. We’re not in favor of the state reinstating any sort of stay-at-home order, but believe there’s a high possibility cases will increase to the level where our businesses will need to pivot again to accommodate customers who feel uncomfortable shopping and dining in person.”
Bryce said local businesses could prepare for a possibly lean holiday season by creating e-commerce websites and using what they’ve learned about curbside and delivery orders.