CardFlight Small Business Impact Report for May 21, 2020

For the second full week of May, sales at small businesses increased 3.1% over the previous week.

Introduction

This past week, sales at small businesses increased 3.1%. Sales for the portfolio of small businesses tracked in this report have now returned to the same level of the baseline week of March 2-8.

Looking at the major business categories, retail and services had moderate week-over-week increases of 5.7% and 2.6% respectively. Sales at food and drink businesses were flat week-over-week, but maintained sales volume at 3.2% above the baseline week.

Our data suggest that businesses are continuing to grow their sales and many closed businesses continue to re-open. While a number of US states reduced stay-at-home restrictions during the second week of May, it appears that the impacts of opening have been steady and continuous, with growth in sales occurring prior to and through any official easing of restrictions.

Key takeaways from this week’s report

About this report

The CardFlight Small Business Impact Report is intended to provide insights into the impacts of coronavirus/COVID-19 on small businesses across the United States. The report has been featured in and/or cited by The Atlantic, Bloomberg TV, Business Insider, Digital Transactions, and others.

The report is based on analysis of a representative sample of over two million transactions processed from March 2 to May 24, 2020 by more than 60,000 small businesses who use CardFlight’s SwipeSimple software to accept credit and debit card payments. Learn more about our methodology.

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Week-over-week changes

First we examine how coronavirus/COVID-19 is affecting small business sales by analyzing change in overall sales, number of transactions per business, and more.

Sales at small business up 3.1% last week

Week-over-week sales at the small businesses in our sample were up for the third consecutive week. Overall sales are now down just 0.3% from the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020.

Transaction counts up 5.2% week-over-week

Last week, the total number of transactions in our sample increased for the fifth consecutive week. Compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, transaction counts are now down to just 9.1%, continuing their steady rise from the low point we recorded in our March 23–29 report.

Active small businesses up 3.2% last week

The number of small businesses who conducted at least one transaction continues to  return toward the baseline levels. The number of active merchants is now down 14.4% from the baseline week, compared to the low of nearly 30% we reported in mid-April.

The biggest increase in active merchants last week was among services businesses, which saw 4.1% more active merchants than the week prior. Services businesses still have the most ground to make up, however, as the number of active merchants in this category is still down nearly 19% over the baseline week of March 2–5.

The average number of transactions per active merchant was up 2% week-over-week. The average transaction per merchant metric is now above the baseline week of March 2–8 by 6.2%.

Deep dive: Sales by business category

In this section of the CardFlight Small Business Impact Report, we take a closer look at small business performance by business category:

  • Food and drink establishments: Includes bars and restaurants
  • Service providers: General contractors, healthcare providers, providers of professional services, and others
  • Retail: Businesses like sporting goods stores, specialty retail, home furnishings, and automotive

Sales at food and drink businesses maintain to pre-COVID level gains

Week-over-week sales at food and drink businesses were flat, but maintained their growth over the baseline, now up 3.2% compared to sales during the week of March 2–8, 2020.

Although overall sales were flat, the number of transactions increased by 6% over the same period.

Retail sales up 5.7% last week

The retail businesses in our sample saw a fifth week of improved sales, up 5.7% week-over-week, and now are 6.3% over the baseline.

However, the number of transactions in the retail category decreased for the first time since the week of March 30–April 5, and were down 3.3%.

Sales at services businesses up 2.6% week-over-week

Businesses in the services category saw a 2.6% increase in sales last week, and are now down by 9.8% compared to the baseline week of March 2–8.

The number of transactions in the services category were up 12.1% last week and are down nearly 24% over the baseline week.

Business outlook

In this section, we classify business change by three different measures.

Businesses that are holding steady

Sales at certain small businesses have remained stable since the week of March 2–8, staying within plus or minus 20% of the baseline week.

  • Automotive retail: sales were steady week over week, and now down 1.7% from the baseline week
  • Automotive repair: sales grew 6.9% this week, and now down 1.2% from baseline
  • Other transportation: sales grew 10.3% this week, and now down 4.5% from baseline
  • On-site technical services: sales dipped 2.5% this week, and now up 11.6% from baseline
  • Repair shops: continued growth with sales increased 6.0% this week, now 10.3% over baseline


Business that were hit hard, but are now showing momentum

The following businesses saw significant decreases in the first few weeks of our reporting, but have now seen an increase in sales for at least four of the past five weeks. Specialty retail had another strong weekly increase in sales of 27%, and are now 41.8% above the baseline week.

  • Home furnishings: experienced fifth consecutive week of growth, with sales now down 18.7% from baseline
  • Healthcare: five consecutive weeks of growth, with sales down 19.3% from baseline
  • Specialty retail: grew 5.4% last week, with sales up 49.5% from baseline
  • Food and drink: sales were steady week over week, now up 3.2% from baseline
  • Sporting goods: having grown four out of the past five weeks, now up 17% from baseline
  • Towing, trucking, and storage: with 13.4% week-over-week increase, and now down 7.8% from baseline
  • Salons and barbershops: with 70.9% weekly sales growth and four weeks of consecutive growth, and down 43.8% of baseline


Businesses to watch

The following businesses saw a rapid decline in sales initially, but have now seen increases over the past four weeks. We will continue to watch these categories in the weeks ahead.

  • Entertainment and recreation: dipped 5.2% last week, and now 40.9% below baseline
  • Health and beauty spas: third growth week of 15.8%, and now 54.6% below baseline

The following business categories have yet to show signs of sustained growth:

  • Art and creative goods: currently down 61.5% of baseline
  • Clothing and apparel: down 58.4%
  • Organizations: down 57.8%
  • Other retail: currently down 38.6% of baseline

A note about the businesses in our sample

Given the nature of small businesses as whole, at any time, there is a fair amount of new business formation and closures. The analysis below is our attempt to separate net changes in small-business activity from any pandemic-related market share shifts towards SwipeSimple. Due to the versatility of our product offering, these shifts occurred by existing small businesses adding SwipeSimple to their payment environment in order to quickly adapt to new service and delivery methods.

For this part of our analysis, we compared business activity from March through May 2020 with the same period in 2019, and used the 2019 period as a baseline for the typical contribution towards total small business sales of newly processing merchants. We used this to create an adjusted business formation estimate that attempts to remove bias from any pandemic-related market share gains.

While we will continue to report based upon the SwipeSimple portfolio, we added additional analysis to compare the actual SwipeSimple portfolio with our projection for all small businesses.

The charts below reflect our projection for how small businesses have performed according to the baseline week, based on:

  • SwipeSimple portfolio: Reflects all transactions processed by US small businesses using SwipeSimple for a given week. This is the same methodology for all other charts in this report.
  • Same-store sales: Reflects all transactions processed by US small businesses using SwipeSimple for a given week, only including merchants that were active prior to March 9, 2020.
  • Projection for all small businesses: Reflects actual transactions from merchants in the same-store sales group, plus an imputed amount of transactions from new merchants at the lower 2019 growth levels, to remove the impact of share shift during 2020 due to pandemic-related reasons.

For the data tables on which the charts above were made, view the spreadsheet.

Thanks for reading the CardFlight Small Business Impact Report

Do you have questions, feedback, or press inquiries? Contact us. You may also view past editions of the CardFlight Small Business Impact Report.

Our methodology

To create this report, we analyzed a representative sample of millions of transactions processed from March 2 to May 10, 2020, by:

  • 60,000 small businesses 
  • in all 50 states 
  • using CardFlight’s SwipeSimple software to accept credit and debit card payments

This report can be useful in understanding the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses at a hyper-local perspective and across the US. It is updated on a regular basis tracking specific indicators including: shifts in consumer spending among local businesses; impacts across different industries, and across cities and states. 

The SwipeSimple small business owner 

The typical SwipeSimple merchant has one to ten employees and less than five locations or mobile service points. The average active merchant represented in this data set processes approximately $130,000 in credit/debit card payments annually. The merchants are a mix of professional and personal service providers, specialty retail establishments, and food and drink purveyors.

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