Amazon Prime Day boosts small business shopping, too - Marketplace

Amazon Prime Day boosts small business shopping, too - Marketplace


Amazon Prime Day boosts small business shopping, too - Marketplace

Posted: 13 Oct 2020 07:30 AM PDT

Amazon's annual shopping bonanza known as Prime Day begins Tuesday. Though, not everyone is excited: Campaign groups have urged shoppers to instead spend cash in small, local shops.

They argue the coronavirus pandemic — along with the lockdowns and travel restrictions that followed — has accelerated hardship for small- and medium-sized businesses that rely on foot traffic into their shops. Before COVID-19, many companies were already struggling to compete against the likes of Amazon, which offers quick delivery and access to thousands of products online.

One German trade union urged workers at seven Amazon warehouses in the country to go on strike and advocate for better pay conditions.

But Oliver Bristowe, co-owner of Pets Purist, an animal care business in the English city of Manchester, said a boycott against Prime Day could negatively affect his business and thousands of others like it.

"A shop in a local community finds Amazon as a way to increase their sales as well as footfall through the door," Bristowe said. "It's not as black and white as saying: There are shops on [main streets] and ones that are online … we find customers don't realize that they're buying from an independent store [when they shop on Amazon]."

"A shop in a local community finds Amazon as a way to increase their sales as well as footfall through the door."

Oliver Bristowe, Pets Purist co-owner

In the month leading up to Prime Day, Pets Purist was featured as an Amazon Storefront, and Bristowe said on that day, sales were three times higher than usual. Prime Day helps give his shop a 10% boost.

While some criticized Amazon for taking sales away from smaller businesses, this year the company offered a promotion to encourage people to shop small. For customers who spent $10 with a small business before Oct. 13, Amazon offered a $10 credit to use on any item over the two-day shopping period.

Amazon rolled out Storefronts in 2018 as a launching pad for small and medium-sized businesses to reach a wider audience using the company's platform and logistics. Now, more than half the products sold on the site come from those smaller companies.

"It gives small businesses like us the ability to kind of just plug into the world's best fulfilment network and a website, which gets traffic many times more than we could on our own website," Bristowe said.

Pets Purist uses the company's fulfilment service to handle shipping, returns and customer service related to orders generated on the site.

"It allows us to grow without the need to increase resources," Bristowe said. "We can send our products into Amazon, and they'll store them and then ship them out to the customer when they make an order, which to scale the way we have on Amazon, it will just be impossible as a small business."

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Small business optimism overall is way up, but not for all owners - Marketplace

Posted: 13 Oct 2020 06:05 AM PDT

There's still no progress on another round of coronavirus relief coming from Washington, around 25 million Americans are still on unemployment and it appears that COVID-19 is resurging in many parts of the country. So this may come as a surprise: The National Federation of Independent Businesses just released their "Small Business Optimism Index" for September, and it's back to pre-pandemic levels after tanking in the spring.

NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said the index found "a lot of good things have been happening in a lot of parts of the country."

"We're opening the economy up, people are going back to work, sales have been definitely rising," Dunkelberg said.

But that's not the case everywhere. NFIB's membership is concentrated in small towns and cities, and primarily in industries that have rebounded the fastest, like manufacturing and construction. 

The NFIB optimism index includes fewer respondents from the service sector, like restaurants and retail shops.

Those small businesses have a more bleak outlook, said accountant Paul Peterson, managing partner of Wiss & Company, which serves clients in New York and New Jersey.

"In a lot of our conversations with clients recently, it's been almost a sense of gloom," Peterson said.

In September, his firm conducted a national survey of 300 small businesses with Sapio Research. It found that that 10% of small businesses have already shut down and another 5% plan to in coming months.

What's the latest on more pandemic relief aid from the federal government?

President Donald Trump first tweeted that he's cutting off negotiations on big pandemic relief funding until after the election. Then, later the same day, he called for piecemeal stimulus, including $1,200 pandemic checks for families to be signed by the president and arrive before election day. So, some whiplash here. Karen Petrou, managing partner of the Washington-based economic consulting firm Federal Financial Analytics, said "the president is always negotiating. I mean, he's just trying to make a deal. That's the only way I can explain this."

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

What's going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.

Some Small Business Owners Say They Won't See Much Help From Gov. Evers' $5K Grants - Wisconsin Public Radio News

Posted: 13 Oct 2020 03:00 AM PDT

A second round of state aid for small businesses is opening up to applications soon, but some small business owners say they won't see much help from it. 

The Evers administration announced the second round of "We're All In" grants last Tuesday. Applications for the program open Monday and run through Nov. 2.

The program provides $5,000 grants to about 10,000 small businesses in Wisconsin. It's targeting businesses that have been among the hardest hit during the outbreak, like restaurants, bars, hair and nail salons, and barber shops. 

The new grants are double the size of the $2,500 grants offered in the first round of the program, which was announced in May. Approximately 27,000 small businesses across the state received funding under the initial round, according to Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary Missy Hughes. 

Maria Ngyuen is the manager and co-owner of Lavender Natural Nails in Green Bay. Ngyuen said business has been slow, and the salon's income has taken a hit.

"Normally, I would do 10 or 12 people a day, but now it's like three," she said, comparing a normal day's business at a salon she worked at prior to the pandemic to business at her new salon that she opened in July.

She noted the salon prepared for business to be slower, but it's still struggling to pay for things like staff wages, rent and utilities.

Ngyuen said funding from the state would go a long way toward helping her salon cover some of its expenses. But her business likely isn't eligible to receive grant funding under the program because the "We're All In" grants are reserved for businesses that were operating before January. 

Omar Shaikh, co-owner of Milwaukee's Carnevor Steakhouse, said he plans to apply for the grant money.

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Shaikh said he appreciates the state making the funds available because "any little bit helps," but for a restaurant like his, the money won't go very far at all, estimating it'll likely cover a month of the restaurant's utility bills.

"It doesn't even scratch the surface, just speaking frankly," Shaikh said. "So, you know, the state or really ... maybe more money allocated from the (federal government) — it needs to happen to really help restaurants."

Hughes acknowledged the program won't help all businesses struggling right now, adding the program is targeted at smaller "micro-businesses" that may not have existing relationships with banks or a safety net. Hughes said for businesses that are left out of "We're All In," the Evers administration continues to advocate for more federal funding. 

The program is largely funded by money the state received from the federal coronavirus relief bill—the first round of stimulus spending in March. 

Talks between Congress and the Trump administration over a second round of stimulus spending have been stalled for months, and it remains unclear if any additional aid could come to pass before the end of the year. Last week, President Donald Trump abruptly called off stimulus negotiations with congressional Democrats, and then reversed course proposing a stimulus package with more spending than House Democrats had offered.

With prospects for federal aid fading, Hughes said the state may have to step in with additional aid if Congress and the White House are unable to reach an agreement. 

"We'll be looking under the mattress, that's for sure, if the federal government doesn't come up with some kind of a stimulus plan," Hughes said. She added that she's confident an agreement will be reached on another round of stimulus spending. 

Priority will be given to businesses that haven't already received aid under the first phase of the "We're All In" program or the Ethnic Minority Emergency Grant program, to businesses in the hardest hit sectors, and to businesses with ethnically diverse ownership, according to a press release from WEDC.

Small business owners can find more information about the program through the state Department of Revenue website.

A Los Angeles bookstore owner on reinventing her small business during the pandemic - Marketplace

Posted: 12 Oct 2020 04:03 PM PDT

"My Economy" tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.

Celene Navarrete first met her business partner Chiara Arroyo at a book fair for their children's school.

"Chiara is from Spain and I'm from Mexico, and our children go to a bilingual program here in Los Angeles," said Navarrete.

They both expected to find many books in Spanish at the book fair.

"But that was not the case. And it was very disappointing for us," she recalls. "So, we decided to take action."

That is when LA Librería, a Los Angeles bookstore that specializes in imported children's books from Spanish-speaking nations around the world, was born. Navarrete and Arroyo travel to Latin American countries and Spain to find authentic Spanish-language children's books. They carefully select books that resonate with kids and young adults in the United States and bring them back to stock their shelves.

"LA Librería is more than a bookstore," said Navarrete. "It is a cultural hub, where people connect with other families that are raising bilingual children."

Prior to the pandemic, they would host events at the store and bring some of their books to book fairs in different schools. But all of that has changed. Their storefront has been closed since March, and they have not been able to attend any in-person book fairs.

"We have to reinvent the way we work with our community, with our customers," said Navarrete. "People that come to this store are looking for the in-person experience, the same thing for the people that buy a book from us from the book fairs. So, this has been very, very challenging."

Let us know how your economy is doing using the form below, and your story may be featured on a future edition of "My Economy."

What's the latest on more pandemic relief aid from the federal government?

President Donald Trump first tweeted that he's cutting off negotiations on big pandemic relief funding until after the election. Then, later the same day, he called for piecemeal stimulus, including $1,200 pandemic checks for families to be signed by the president and arrive before election day. So, some whiplash here. Karen Petrou, managing partner of the Washington-based economic consulting firm Federal Financial Analytics, said "the president is always negotiating. I mean, he's just trying to make a deal. That's the only way I can explain this."

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

What's going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

Read More Collapse

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.

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