Chamber News

August 20, 2020 Likes Comments

How bad is it? Here's some numbers

It's bad out there for most of our mom and pop retailers.

I didn’t have to tell you that.
But this morning I can tell you just how bad it is, thanks to the Retailers Association of Massachusetts which shared results of a statewide survey with us during a chamber Zoom event yesterday.
While just over 12 percent of independent retailers (most likely, those categorized as “essential businesses”) said sales had increased over the prior four months, 40 percent of merchants reported sales were off by 50 percent or more. Of those, eight percent said sales had dipped 75 percent or more.
In addition, 45 percent anticipate they will need to lay off employees in the future; something you wouldn’t normally expect to hear heading into the fall and holiday seasons.
Twenty-four percent thought they would seek to have a smaller footprint. Thirteen percent said they expected to reduce their number of locations.
More than one-third of respondents are either “unconfident” and “somewhat unconfident” that one year from now business will recover from pre-COVID-19 sales levels.
On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Target reported the strongest quarterly sales growth in its history, while Lowe’s sales growth was the strongest in decades.
That’s my way of paraphrasing what we heard from independent retailers yesterday when asked how they feel about the Paycheck Protection Program.
More than half of the businesses in our communities received one of the Small Business Administration loans. And there’s little doubt that the federal program helped pay rent and salaries and kept the lights on this spring and summer. (CommonWealth story.)
But -- as we heard loud clear during our panel program -- the PPP roll out; changing rules and deadlines; confusion about what’s forgivable or not; and the need to spend money sooner than would have been genuinely helpful, was maddening.
Among the current uncertainty, is the unresolved issue as to whether or not PPP dollars are tax exempt, due to a current IRS rule that owners cannot deduct business expenses they typically would from their taxes. (BBJ story here).
Now PPP recipients also need to choose how much of their own salaries, and those of their employees, will be eligible for forgiveness when they apply through their lenders. Those approved before June 5 must figure out if it's more advantageous to report their spending for eight weeks or 24 weeks. (Another BBJ story here).
Like I said: ‘Arrggghhhh!’
Food security support
Two of my favorite chamber members (okay, okay, you’re all my favorite chamber members!) have been awarded grants this week by the Baker administration to address food insecurity as a result of the pandemic and to make the state’s food system more resilient.
  • Volante Farms in Needham was awarded $37,000 to build out a cold storage room that would allow the farm to store root vegetables into the winter.
  • Centre Street Food Pantry in Newton will use its $23,000 award to purchase and install a walk-in outdoor refrigerator to increase storage of produce, dairy, and refrigerated foods.
Racial equity discussion this morning
The Globe (yep, a chamber member!) is presenting a what sounds like a great program – with a terrific panel -- this morning (Thursday) at 11 a.m. called “Race And Small Business: Empowering Entrepreneurs Of Color.”
The program will explore the role of corporate America, government and consumers could play as we work toward racial equity as a community, especially during COVID.
Thinking about traveling?
The state recently updated its COVID-19 Travel Order Frequently Asked Questions. The document includes information about exemptions to the travel order and information for those on or near the Rhode Island border.
And when you do travel, don't forget yet another favorite chamber member has tools to help you travel safely.
Space needed in Needham
Do you have some space at your place of business in Needham that you could temporarily rent to the Charles River YMCA?
The Y is looking for 2,000 to 20,000 sq feet from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. They’d be using the space to provide full day programming that supports virtual learning for Needham students on their off weeks throughout the hybrid reopening model. Contact Ashley Bouchard at 617-590-6003 or 857-547- 1384
In addition, Temple Beth Shalom at 670 Highland Avenue in Needham Heights is in need of parking spaces near the synagogue for faculty/staff parking so they can also offer programs for Needham students. They need up to 50 spaces but are open to any number of spaces available that may be available in the nearby area. Contact Jodi Fletcherat(781) 444-0077 ext 54

Newton’s second pot shop eyes fall opening
Construction is underway on what would be Newton’s second medical and recreational marijuana retailer.
Cypress Tree's Victor Chiang tells the Newton TAB he hopes to have his 4,000 square foot facility at the corner of Elliot Street and Route 9 open by November.
Meanwhile, Jessica Barlett at the BBJ has been looking into how much revenue recreational cannabis sales have generated for the state and municipalities.
$122 million has been collected in tax revenue in the first two fiscal years of recreational sales. The funds come from a 20 percent tax on recreational cannabis, including a 6.25 percent sales tax, a 10.75% excise tax, and local option tax for cities and towns up to 3 percent.
There is at least one recreational marijuana dispensary in 46 Bay State municipalities, contributing a combined $18.28 million in local tax option revenue.
More about that work from home poll
In yesterday’s email I reported on the WBUR/MassInc poll, which noted that nearly four out of ten Massachusetts workers who are currently working from home would like to continue to do so, either full-time or for part of the week once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

The poll also noted that women ages 18-44 (23 percent) and women over age 45 (22 percent) were most interested in working from home. While the poll didn’t specifically explore why, one reader wrote to say that it’s “most likely not that women ages 18-44 and over 45 are ‘most interested’ in working from home, but that we have no choice.
“We require that option because many of us in that demographic have school-aged children who will be at home learning either partly or fully remotely. And that article after article in the last few months has shown that it is women who have predominantly taken on that charge, even when they also work.
“I would be ‘most interested’ in returning to my full work schedule but for many reasons our schools will not be opening in any significant capacity, and therefore I will be working from home for the foreseeable future. The other parent in our household also works full time, so I don't have a choice in the matter,” she added.
We’ll be back tomorrow!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.


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