A growing majority of small business owners worry about inflation and expect less than the usual holiday profit they need to survive another year, new research shows.
The US Chamber of Commerce and MetLife released their quarterly Small Business Index on Wednesday.
The survey found 53% of small business owners named inflation their biggest problem – a 30% increase from the same poll last year – and 61% expect less holiday profit because of inflation.
Another 79% said the holiday season was critical to their profits this year — up from 70% last December — and 83% said inflation had a “significant impact” on their business in 2022.
“This quarter, small business owners did not see any improvement in the economic landscape. Although their own business may be doing okay, their confidence remains shaken,” Tom Sullivan, Chamber of Commerce vice president of small business policy, said in a statement.
The survey echoes other reports suggesting retail giants will benefit from frugal consumer spending habits this Christmas at the expense of mom-and-pop stores.
The Chamber of Commerce found that 69% of small businesses have raised their prices this holiday season to cope with rising labor, shipping and other costs.
That makes them less attractive to Americans seeking holiday bargains as they cope with rising food and housing costs, according to analysts.
Consumer researcher Attest reported Tuesday that 43% of 1,870 adults responding to a survey said they are buying fewer things and consuming less this holiday season. That’s up by 9.6 percentage points from the same consumer trends survey last year.
Respondents said their biggest worries for next year are paying for food (24%), rising gas prices (17%), political upheaval (15%) and unaffordable energy bills (10%).
Saving money in new ways “is becoming an American pastime” as inflation and economic uncertainty “weighs heavily” on consumers’ minds, said Jeremy King, Attest’s founder and CEO.
“This research paints a picture of Americans trying to react to worsening economic conditions,” Mr. King said in a statement.
The National Retail Federation estimates that 158.5 million Americans will shop this Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas weekend. That’s the highest since the group started providing estimates in 2016.
“Consumers have been shopping in record numbers this year, purchasing holiday items for friends and loved ones,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said Tuesday.
The NRF forecasts that total retail sales for 2022 will grow by 6-8% over last year to more than $4.86 trillion.
The organization also expects holiday retail sales for November and December to grow by the same amount to more than $942.6 billion, despite inflationary challenges.
But small businesses are unlikely to see much of this surge.
Attest’s survey found that 38% of shoppers said they were “hunting for second-hand bargains to combat the rising cost of living.”
And Americans are floating more debt to cover holiday expenses this year.
Credit card debt rose by $86 billion in 2021 and WalletHub projects an increase of $110 billion in 2022, according to a Debt Study the personal finance website released Wednesday.
Researchers say all of that has contributed to the holiday blues of small business owners, who have less wiggle room to lower prices than big box retailers and online marketplaces.
In a recent poll of 500 small business owners, the Job Creators Network Foundation found that 63% said their financial position “stayed the same or gotten worse over the past year.” Another 65% expressed concern that economic conditions might force them to close shops in the coming year.
“The first eleven months of the year, they are typically in the red,” JCN President and CEO Alfredo Ortiz told The Washington Times. “December consumer spending brings them into the black. That will not be the case this year for many small businesses because of inflation.”
The Small Business Administration, an independent federal agency that supports entrepreneurs, did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the Chamber of Commerce report.
But on Tuesday, the SBA touted the distribution of nearly $43 billion in capital small business loans to “underserved communities” in the fiscal year 2022.
The SBA said in a press release that it “increased the number of financings” to women-owned, minority-owned, and veteran-owned small businesses by 29% over the previous year.
“Our work at the SBA, under the Biden-Harris Administration, addresses entrenched inequities in capital markets and throughout our economy,” Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement.