COVID-19 Business Impact Surveys
The Cape Cod Commission and the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce issued multiple surveys to evaluate the timing and extent of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local business community. The first survey was issued in the spring of 2020, the second in the summer, the third in the winter of 2020-2021, and the fourth in the winter of 2021-2022. Hundreds of businesses and non-profit organizations responded, representing every town and the major industries on Cape Cod. Results from these surveys have informed recovery and resilience planning efforts. 

November 2021 | January 2021 | August 2020 | May 2020


 

November 2021
Overview of Respondents

The fourth business impact survey solicited responses from early November 2021 through early January 2022 and received a total of 255 responses from businesses and non-profits on Cape Cod. The industries with the greatest representation were Restaurants, Catering, and Food/Beverage Service; Retail (non-food related); and Arts, Entertainment, Culture, and the towns with the greatest representation were Provincetown, Barnstable, and Brewster.


Financial Impacts

Survey respondents continued to face financial impacts related to the pandemic in late 2021, though 2021 impacts appeared less severe than those in 2020. More than 80% of respondents reported increased costs in summer 2021, with the most commonly cited costs related to cleaning and sanitation, wages and hazard pay, and moving operations online. However, respondents reported greater reductions in revenue in 2020 than in 2021, fewer missed payments than in the third survey (January 2021), and greater capacity to operate moving forward than in the third survey, suggesting the second year of the pandemic produced less severe financial impacts than the first.


Operational Impacts Operating Status

Survey results suggested that businesses/organizations were more fully open at the end of 2021 than at the start of 2021/end of 2020. Respondents reported that their months of operation in 2021 more closely resembled pre-pandemic levels than their months of operation in 2020. By the fourth survey, approximately 52% of respondents were completely open, and only 6% were closed for COVID-related reasons, while in the third survey (January 2021), only 31% of respondents were completely open, and 10% were closed for COVID-related reasons.


Operational Impacts Impacts & Mitigation

Survey results suggested businesses/organizations continued to make operational adjustments to address the impacts of the pandemic in 2021. Many respondents reported facing pandemic-related operational impacts in summer 2021, with the most common impacts including increased cleaning and sanitation, enforced social distancing and mask regulations, and supply chain and/or distribution disruptions. In response, respondents continued to draw on a range of resources to mitigate pandemic-related operational impacts, with the most common resources including personal savings/retirement funds, federal loan/grant funding, and participation in a program to mitigate layoffs. At the same time, more than 35% of respondents reported experiencing unanticipated positive side effects from the pandemic, such as increases in customers or sales, client loyalty and community support, and implementation of new or more efficient business operations, including digital operations.


Workforce Impacts Returning to Work

Survey results indicated that any challenges to bringing employees back to work, while not uncommon, were also not universal among businesses/organizations in 2021. Less than half of survey respondents reported difficulties bringing employees back, with the inability to hire enough employees locally emerging as the most cited challenge. The most common factors respondents perceived as contributing to employees’ reluctance to return to work included inability to find available and/or affordable housing, health/safety concerns related to interacting with the public, and current unemployment insurance exceeds income.


Workforce Impacts Employees

Survey findings indicated that many businesses/organizations’ workforce had rebounded to pre-pandemic levels by late 2021. The greatest share of respondents said they had the same number of employees as in 2019 for all employee types (H-2B, J-1, Seasonal (local hire), Volunteers, Year-Round Full Time, and Year-round Part Time). A majority of respondents reported having employees working normal hours, with a smaller, though still significant, share reporting partial/reduced schedules.


Looking Ahead

Survey findings indicated that, while the majority of businesses/organizations experienced negative impacts during the pandemic, with related needs to adapt, some experienced positive impacts. Approximately 60% of respondents characterized COVID-19’s economic impacts as having moderate or large negative impacts on their business/organization, while 12% reported experiencing moderate or large positive impacts on their business/organization. Many respondents reported intentions to adjust their operations in 2022, with hiring more employees ranking as the most common planned adjustment.


 

November 2021 | January 2021 | August 2020 | May 2020

January 2021
Overview of Respondents

The third economic impact survey was conducted in January 2021. There were 450 respondents, representing all 15 Cape Cod towns. The top three industries that responded – Retail (Non-food related), Restaurants/Catering/Food Service, and Accommodations (Hotel, Motel) – are consistent with the top three industries as measured by employment in the region.


Financial Impacts

Respondents to the survey reported year-over-year revenue change by quarter. Compared to 2019, over 85% of businesses reported losses in the second quarter; more than a third reported Q2 losses of more than 75%. In Q3, during the summer, businesses rebounded somewhat though nearly 30% of respondents still reported Q3 and Q4 losses of 50% or more.


Operational Impacts

By the time the third survey was issued in January of 2021, most survey respondents had opened, though only 31% were fully open. Nearly 10% were closed due to the pandemic, though the majority of those closed did anticipate reopening. In spring 2020, as captured in an earlier business impact survey, 32% of respondents reported leveraging personal savings to mitigate the financial impacts of the pandemic. By this survey, that percentage had risen to about 40%.


Workforce Impacts

Cape Cod faced unprecedented levels of unemployment due to COVID-19. Especially in the earlier stages of the pandemic, businesses and organizations closed, reduced hours, and shifted operations online where possible, and many employees were furloughed, laid off, or assigned to work on reduced schedules, with many of these trends extending throughout 2020. After the initial stages of the pandemic, as businesses and organizations brought employees back to work, some noted challenges doing so as some employees cited concerns about health and safety, income, and childcare.


Looking Ahead

The most requested resource among respondents was support for communications, marketing, and social media, indicating businesses felt the need to reach their customers online more effectively. Many respondents did not know how the pandemic would change their 2021 business plans, given uncertainty around public health regulations, vaccine availability, and financial resources, though increased online operations emerged as the most common identified strategy for the year ahead.



 

November 2021 | January 2021 | August 2020 | May 2020

August 2020
Overview of Respondents

The second economic impact survey was released in August 2020 and closed shortly after Labor Day weekend. There were 405 total respondents representing every town on Cape Cod. The top three industries represented were consistent with the top three as measured by employment in the region.


Financial Impacts

Many businesses and organizations reported Q1 and Q2 losses of 50% or more compared to 2019. A greater share of respondents said they could operate indefinitely with their current cash flow and reserves than in May 2020, and a smaller share said they could not operate at all with the same resources. Several businesses reported falling behind on rent and other bills, and many faced increased costs due to increased cleaning/sanitation or shifting operations online.


Operational Impacts

By the time the second survey was issued in August, most Cape Cod businesses were open, though the majority reported operating at a limited capacity. The most commonly cited pandemic impacts were a reduced number of customers, social distancing and mask regulation enforcement, and increased sanitation/cleaning. Many businesses took advantage of the Payroll Protection Program or a similar program, relied on personal savings, or used new or refinanced loans to mitigate impacts from the pandemic.


Outlook Compared to Severity of Impacts

Based on the Small Business Pulse survey conducted nationally by the US Census Bureau, the data below compare business owners’ outlooks – when will your business/organization return to normal? – to the severity of economic impacts. Most industries are clustered in the bottom right, indicating large negative economic impacts and anticipation of a long recovery period before returning to normalcy or no return to normalcy at all.


Workforce Impacts

A large number of respondents reported having employees working normal hours, with a smaller share reporting having employees working partial hours and considerably fewer noting having employees furloughed or laid off. More than 40%, however, reported difficulty getting employees to return to work, citing employee concerns about their health and safety, income, and childcare.


Looking Ahead

Support for communications, marketing, and social media, business continuity and disaster planning, and support selling online were the top types of non-financial assistance respondents identified as still needed. The vast majority of respondents who applied to the Paycheck Protection Program had their application approved for the full amount and expected to be fully refunded.



 

November 2021 | January 2021 | August 2020 | May 2020

May 2020
Overview of Respondents

Over 350 businesses responded across a variety of industries and from all 15 towns on Cape Cod. The industries with greatest representation among respondents were Accommodations, Retail, and Restaurant, Catering, and Food/Beverage Services, which are consistent with the top three industries as measured by employment in the region.  The number of years respondents had been in business on Cape Cod ranged from less than 1 to 100, with a median of 18 years, and nearly ¾ of respondents’ businesses operated year-round.


Financial Impacts

Respondents experienced significant impacts to their revenues when compared to 2019, and many expected to see continued revenue losses in the following six months. Nearly half of respondents, approximately 49%, estimated they could operate for only 6 months or less or not at all with their current cash flow, and about 45% expected to see a decline in revenues of at least 50% over the next 6 months.


Operational Impacts

The most common impacts respondents reported during the pandemic were a decline in customers/clients, a decline in sales, and closures. More than 62% of respondents said they had closed between March and June 2020, with nearly 75% of closed businesses expecting to reopen.


Workforce Impacts

Cape Cod had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state early in the pandemic, disproportionately affecting the workforce in Accommodations, Retail, and Restaurants. As of this first survey, conducted in May 2020, dozens of respondents reported laying off and furloughing staff.


Mitigating Impacts

Few respondents had a continuity of operations plan or disaster recovery plan in place, and many reported leveraging personal savings, participating in a program to mitigate layoffs, and relying on unemployment assistance to mitigate pandemic impacts. The most commonly cited types of non-financial assistance respondents anticipated needing were related to Communications/Marketing/Social Media, Operations, Peer Support/Networking, and Business Continuity/Disaster Planning.