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Yelp Tracking Shows Small Businesses Bouncing Back.

While the U.S. still grapples with the economic toll of the pandemic, many businesses are putting on “a display of tremendous resilience,” according to a new Yelp report that highlights how “some areas of the local economy are showing promising signs of adaptability.”

Yelp says its Q3 2020 Economic Average report is based on interactions with its business review platform, tracking where new businesses are launching, when existing businesses are resuming more normal hours, and what consumers are searching for.

The report is especially optimistic about the food industry, with more new Yelp listings added during Q3 2020 than in the same period of 2019. “Yelp data shows there’s a significant number of entrepreneurs opening up restaurants and food businesses at this point in the pandemic. It’s happening during the pandemic at a higher rate than one might expect.”

These are “pandemic-optimized eateries” that are designed to keep patrons socially distant using features like large patios, spaced-out tables, order-ahead menus, and efficient service cuisine, the report says.

Business launches include farmers markets (211 openings), food trucks (1,734 openings), pop-up restaurants (100 openings) and seafood markets (84 openings). Yelp data also shows an increase in businesses specializing in treats that can be enjoyed at home, such as cupcakes (494 openings), custom cakes (512 openings) and desserts (1,615 openings).

In addition to new launches, Yelp’s data says an increasing number of the businesses that survived the initial COVID crisis are ready to reopen.

“More than 210,000 [small businesses] have proved their resilience through this extraordinarily difficult period by reopening after an extended temporary closure (between March 1 and September 30). Yelp analyzed the reopening trends in each state by comparing the change in reopenings month-over-month.”

A late summer decrease in cases and loosening government restrictions led to more businesses resuming operations, “with a significant increase in business reopenings in September,” the report says.

However, Yelp notes that these trends are not uniform across the nation. This is partly because COVID infections are rising and falling at different times in different parts of the U.S. and partly because variations in the way state and local governments are responding to such outbreaks.

“These reopening trends reflect government guidelines with many smaller, Midwest and Southern cities experiencing less restrictive regulations than their Coastal counterparts,” the report says. “Florida opened all businesses at 50% capacity as early as June 5,” while in New York and Los Angeles, “many businesses are still not operating at more than 25% capacity as of October.”

“States that experienced a 30% or more increase in reopenings from July to August include: Louisiana (90% increase), Montana (86%), South Dakota (55%), North Dakota (50%), Iowa (34%), Indiana (35%) and Wisconsin (30%),” the report adds. “These reopenings continued into September, when North Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon experienced more than 3X the number of reopenings in September than in August.”

In addition to the food industry, Yelp finds that “preschools, childcare and kids activities experienced high proportions of their reopenings in Q3” and that “people are returning to exercise classes.”

Yelp says other rebounding sectors include beauty salons, leisure activities (movie theaters, arcades and amusement parks), home and local services businesses like locksmiths, and home appliance repair and bike maintenance, and financial services.

“As consumers navigate the effects of the pandemic on their personal finances, many financial service providers experienced a majority of their reopenings in Q3,” the report says. “Banks, financial advisors, tax services, insurance companies and investing firms led the way with 68%, 66%, 58%, 56% and 56%, respectively, of their category reopenings in Q3.”

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