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Small business slowdown: The impact of COVID-19 on small businesses

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After the coronavirus pandemic hit the global economy with a gut wrenching blow, revenue for small businesses in the United States is down 20 percent since January, according to the Brookings Institution. 

Small businesses have been affected in all industries, but the leisure and hospitality industry has taken the biggest hit with a 47.5 percent drop in average daily revenue. 

Small businesses make up the majority of all businesses, and employ almost half the private sector workers in the United States. As of August 9, small business revenue had collectively fallen by 19.1 percent. Restabilizing business revenue is essential to avoid layoffs, firm closures, and diminished investments. 

In Stillwater, local businesses like Fenton Office Mart have felt the effects of the pandemic. Owner Terry Carpenter said that beginning in late August, things have started to slow down pretty significantly.

“With the large number of people that have worked from home over the last six months, our office supply sales have decreased pretty significantly just because people aren’t at their commercial businesses needing the same amount of stuff,” Carpenter said. 

According to Stanford economists Nicholas Bloom, more than 40 percent of people in the labor force were working from home in June. 

With the number of people working from home, small businesses like Fenton’s have had to make adjustments to what they're selling and who they're selling to. Former owner Suzanne Carpenter, whose parents Dale and Margueritte Fenton started the business in 1941, said the virus brought a need for new types of supplies for Fenton’s to sell. 

“We utilized our contacts in schools and such to provide things like hand sanitizer, face shields, desk shields, cleaners and that sort of such,” Carpenter said. “The other thing is just trying to find different or new markets that we’ve not done stuff in before.”

As things continue to change day-to-day, flexibility in finding new markets has become something all businesses have had to do.