Small businesses across Iowa have opened up again, but there’s still a long road to recovery.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has been confident that the economy will grow again in Iowa, and the state is on the mend – the rate of Iowans testing positive has fallen, hospitalizations have decreased, and 21 long-term care centers are coming off the outbreak list.
That said, the virus is not going away completely any time soon. Any adjustments that businesses have been making to their business model need to be sustainable long-term for a successful recovery.
Social distancing rules are still in place for some businesses across Iowa, including bars, restaurants, and gyms. To abide by these regulations, these businesses have had to operate at a lower capacity than usual – which means lower sales.
Some food services have been able to make up for this by pouring more energy into takeout services. Others have found ways to maximize profit from customers by encouraging the purchase of extras. Fortunately, many businesses have resisted pushing their pricing up to compensate.
Many restaurants are now pushing a bookings-only system to limit the number of customers while also reducing lines. Unfortunately, many customers haven’t been turning up to these bookings – which has been very harmful to restaurants already running at a lower capacity. Charging deposits to customers has been one strategy adopted to ensure that customers don’t cancel.
Companies that haven’t been forced to follow social distancing rules should still be taking measures to protect customers and employees. 84% of Iowans have expressed concern over returning to recreational activities. In contrast – in the same study – nearly two-thirds of Iowan employees expressed concern for their health over returning to their office/workspace. Therefore, social distancing measures (or the option to work remotely) are essential for maintaining customers and employees.
A future spike is still a possibility, which could cause Iowa to go back into lockdown. If this happens, companies that depend on physical interaction with customers will be forced to close their doors again. Another long period without income is likely to cripple many businesses, so businesses must be prepared for a possible rebound.
Promoting more sales online is a way that many retail businesses can cope. This could mean focusing more energy on online marketing strategies such as social media marketing, SEO and PPC advertising. Online sales have dramatically risen over the pandemic, with some people buying everything from clothes to groceries online.
Don’t have the money to set up an e-commerce site? There could still be other ways to sell online. Shop Iowa is a free platform for Iowan retailers to use to sell their products online. Retailers without a website are encouraged to use this platform throughout the pandemic and beyond.
There is a lot of other support out there that small businesses can turn to if severely affected by Covid-19. The Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program launched July 17th and offers short term relief to small businesses experiencing hardship. This could help to cover bills and keep many companies afloat until the pandemic is over.
Non-profit organizations can meanwhile seek local government help too. The Iowa Nonprofit Recovery Fund launched on August 3rd and promises to offer short term relief for the duration of the pandemic.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has also recently signed a bill protecting Iowa businesses from coronavirus lawsuits. With exceptions to cases where apparent negligence was taken, businesses will no longer be able to be sued for exposing employees and customers to Covid-19. It is vital that businesses still take health and safety precautions to stop the spread of the virus. However, such a law may be able to prevent further costs to businesses caused by employees and customers pursuing legal action even when appropriate measures have been taken.
While it is no small task, small businesses must keep abreast of local government rules and law changes. This is essential for keeping your business legal, but it could be necessary for eligibility for any future financial aid opportunities that may still arise. The hope is that businesses can stay alive with these opportunities without making too many drastic changes to their business models.