Local economies across the country are feeling the impact of the shutdowns and restrictions forced by the outbreak of COVID-19. On Thursday, the City of Delaware Economic Development Department released the results of a survey meant to gauge how businesses around Delaware have been able to handle the difficult circumstances.
More than 200 businesses in the community, across numerous industries, were contacted by the Economic Development Department to participate in the survey, and 40 businesses submitted a response. Of the 40 businesses that responded, 22.5% were retail stores, 15% were manufacturing, 15% were restaurants, and 10% were made up of business services.
Of the reporting businesses, 29 of them have continued operations on-site, during the pandemic, with 10 businesses keeping at least 75% of their staff present, according to the survey.
Six companies in the survey reported having closed, two of which did so on their own and four were forced to as part of the stay-at-home order.
Results of the survey showed 36.11% of the reporting businesses have not laid off a single employee during the pandemic. On the other hand, 36% of the businesses have been forced to lay off anywhere from half to all of their staff members. Of the businesses that had to change their operations in some way, 25.93% have offered some sort of paid leave to the employees they sent home.
Asked what stood out to him most about the results of the survey, Economic Development Director Sean Hughes didn’t hesitate in pointing out the care being shown from business owners toward their employees.
“People were very passionate and concerned about their employees,” he said. “That was very apparent, very quickly, that business owners really do value their employees. So that was great to see that.”
Hughes also singled out the innovation that has been shown by businesses as a critical component of their survival during unfortunate circumstances.
“We have a very innovative business community that figured out ways to continue generating revenue and stay in business in some way,” Hughes said. “I think you see that in the statistics in regards to how many people actually laid employees off, which only a third of the businesses laid off half to all their staff, which is a lot lower, I think, than anybody would have expected.”
Perhaps the most important adaptation businesses have had to make during the pandemic is adding online services, capabilities not every company possessed before it became essential last month. The survey results show better than 91% of the reporting businesses as capable of delivering their products or services, which Hughes said is a representation of the ingenuity shown during this crisis.
“We had people figuring out online ordering systems that did not have them before,” he said.
Hughes added, “We’re not going to return to normalcy for probably a long time. You flip the switch today and open up businesses, well, consumer sentiment surveys are coming back saying that 65% of people aren’t going to come out and shop and dine the way they use to, at least for a while. So, our businesses are going to have to continue to pivot and do anything they can to survive, at least through the rest of this year, in my mind.”
Hughes suggested businesses being forced to figure out their online platforms can be a silver lining of sorts moving forward, especially for retails stores that have already been competing against large online presence from bigger companies.
“This has shown everyone that you have to have that online presence,” he said. “People are going to continue wanting to purchase online and be able to have the item shipped to their home … I hope we never fully go back to what we considered normal, because I think businesses had to go this direction anyhow, and now it’s pushing a lot of these folks to think about that.”
Moving forward, the number one concern stated by employers in regard to employees is the financial welfare of their staff. Other concerns stated most often were the impacts of the overall economy and the safety, health, and mental health of their employees.
In general, businesses said the financial impact on operations, liquidity, and capital, as well as decreasing consumer confidence and spending, a global or country recession, employee stress, and supply chain disruptions are the top concerns that exist for owners.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.