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Small business

Note from the editor

The U.S. depends on small businesses. More than half the people in the country either own or work for a small business, and those companies create about two out of every three new jobs annually, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Retail is responsible for a little over 35% of small business employment. 

In recent years, large chains started to take the lessons of independent companies and apply them at scale. The most impactful of those decisions may have been bringing down the square footage of brick and mortar locations. At the same time, independent retailers started to experiment with solutions that used to only be available to mass marketers or large national chains. For example, as technology improves and becomes more affordable, small businesses are able to deploy savvy payment solutions, delivery mechanisms and other operational improvements. 

The pandemic has changed some of that, pressuring small and large businesses and particularly squeezing stores that were deemed non-essential during periods of required closures early in the crisis. Small retailers tried some of the same pivots their national competitors did in response — shifting where possible to e-commerce or piloting new delivery options but the challenges of scale and competition that have always plagued those retailers didn’t evaporate during the pandemic. And in many cases the ongoing uncertainty pinched small retailers further by disrupting cash flow, employment and normal business. 

This trendline explores several topics facing small retailers as disruptions from the pandemic, e-commerce and broader economic trends continue to bedevil operations.

Small and mighty: How independent retailers navigated the 2020 holidays

Indie players' challenges mimic those of larger retailers. But, small businesses found creative solutions for customers during an unpredictable season.

NRF: Pandemic a 'shock' for small businesses

How small retailers cope with pandemic disruptions

Local stores closed, without the financial cushions enjoyed by their larger rivals, and face even more unknowns in a post-COVID-19 future.

Powell's Books has had enough of Amazon

The Portland, Oregon, bookstore has been a marketplace seller from the get-go, but is now calling it quits and staking a claim for independents.

Are mobile apps worth it for small retailers?

National chain BuyBuy Baby and indie Little Birdies Boutique have two things in common: Both are children's retailers and both can be found in Apple's App Store.

The state of small business in retail

The U.S. depends on small businesses. More than half the people in the country either own or work for a small business, and the retail industry is responsible for a little over 35% of small business employment.

included in this trendline
  • How small retailers cope with pandemic disruptions
  • What online shoppers are looking for right now
  • The role of mobile apps in small business
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.