Pandemic Survey: Local Businesses Lost 50 Percent Or More 

Results from a second economic impact survey issued to local business owners by the Cape Cod Commission and the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce suggest continued impacts to the local business community due to COVID-19.

More than 400 responses were received, representing mainly year-round businesses in all 15 Cape Cod towns. Respondents reflect the top industries in the region including accommodations, retail, and restaurants, construction, real estate, health care, and recreation.

Many businesses and organizations reported first and second quarter losses of 50 percent or more compared to 2019. The length of time business owners believed they could stay operational on current cash flow and reserves was longer on average compared to the first survey (issued in May). Several businesses noted falling behind on rent and other bills, while many faced increased costs due to increased sanitation or shifting operations online.

Cape Cod faced unprecedented levels of unemployment due to COVID-19. Businesses and organizations closed down, reduced hours, and shifted operations online where possible, but some employees remained furloughed or laid off through August. Many more remained working on reduced schedules. Some businesses struggled with employees being unable or unwilling to return, citing concerns about health and safety, limited wages, and childcare. Some 7.2 percent of respondents are completely closed; 54.1 percent are open in a limited way, and 38.8 percent are completely open. Of the 29 respondents who were closed, 4.7 percent are shut down for good, and another 34.4 percent were unsure; 60.9 percent will reopen.

By the time the second survey was issued in August, most Cape Cod businesses had reopened. However, many businesses had to suspend the face-to-face interaction they had with customers prior to the pandemic, disproportionately affecting the region’s substantial tourism and hospitality industries. The number of customers and sales declined for many, and businesses faced increased operational costs related to sanitation and social distancing. Many businesses took advantage of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) in an effort to maintain their workforce, while others relied on savings and loans to survive a diminished summer.

The most requested resource among respondents was support for communications, marketing and social media, as businesses need to reach their customers online more effectively.  For the respondents who had applied for PPP to support their business/organization, the vast majority were approved for the full amount, and expected to be fully refunded.

“This data will help local communities continue to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” said Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Kristy Senatori. “The information can be leveraged by businesses, towns, and other organizations as we look to bring additional resources to our region.”

“Our businesses worked hard over the busy summer months to follow safe opening practices which they maintained and will continue to operate safely during our Second Summer campaign,” said Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross. “We are encouraged that so many businesses are remaining open and looking towards a full recovery.”

Visualizations and a report on the survey results are available online at the Cape Cod COVID-19 Data Dashboard: