Small Businesses Stand Tall Against COVID-19

While many mom-and-pop retailers have closed because of the pandemic, a number have thrived. 

February 12, 2021

LOS ANGELES—Data from the U.S. Small Business Administration indicate that 31.7 million small businesses were in business four years ago, giving 60.6 million people jobs—nearly half of all U.S. workers. In 2019, small businesses generated an additional 1.6 million jobs. While COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many businesses big and small, independent retailers have managed to flourish.

For Dora Herrera, owner of Yuca’s restaurant, the pandemic triggered plummeting sales at her two taco shacks. Through federal loans and other grants, along with Yuca’s quick adaption to the new normal, Herrera managed to keep cooking, the Los Angeles Times reports. “We always said we’ll figure out how to pay that loan back later,” Herrera said. “It was, ‘Just stay alive. Just stay alive.’”

While some experts predicted the pandemic would permanently shutter millions of U.S. small businesses, that hasn’t happened yet. Their contribution goes beyond employment opportunities and tax payments—small businesses are often the heart and soul of the community. Coffee shops become daily gathering places, while small shops work with other local businesses more often than national chain retailers do. “Widespread business closure has social costs that extend beyond the obvious losses to owners and workers,” said Charles Tolbert, a sociologist at Baylor University.

Still, many small businesses saw the pandemic as an opportunity rather than a death knell. “Just as some people have succumbed to COVID and others hardly feel ill at all—that applies to the economy as well,” said Scott Omelianuk, editor of Inc.

Experts have expressed surprise by how quickly some small businesses recovered. “There’s some cause for optimism, but it’s not productive to say to struggling small business owners, ‘You’re going to go bankrupt, but look at all of these new innovators that are kicking butt!’” said Thomas Sullivan with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Congress has to take action to address the K [-shaped recovery].”

Find opportunity within the COVID-19 crisis and discover answers to guide your post-pandemic plan by exploring the COVID Survival Pack—a four-hour learning experience filled with tips and advice for navigating a range of operational challenges, including people, vendors and systems in a post-pandemic workplace. Watch the COVID Survival Pack today.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including information about how to educate employees about the vaccines and other vaccine-related human resources advice. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.