As the new year brings fresh opportunities and challenges, it’s a good time to review the trends that shaped 2021 and consider how they may play out in the months ahead. In that spirit, we’ve gathered nine must-read small business research reports for 2022. We hope they will help you start the year with a clear-eyed perspective on the realities facing small businesses across the nation.
2022 Small Business Research Reports
These reports offer a balance of insights from the past year. You can read each report in full by following the links provided, but we’ve highlighted some of the most interesting findings for you here.
Guidant Financial 2021 Small Business Trends
Guidant Financial and the Small Business Trends Allowance (SBTA) surveyed 2,400 current and aspiring small business owners this year, asking about everything from the impact of Covid-19 to their thoughts on the current political climate. Here are some of the findings:
- 78% of small business owners surveyed expect to survive Covid-19. Meanwhile, 19% are unsure and 4% expect not to survive.
- 23% of respondents said that they lost revenues during the pandemic, whereas 6% say they increased revenues.
- There was an overall decrease in profitable businesses compared to the year before: 63% of respondents say their business profited in 2020, compared to 78% in 2019.
Salesforce 2021 Small & Medium Business Trends
In 2021, Salesforce surveyed over 2,500 small and medium business owners around the globe to gauge their response to everything from technology and growth to what has changed over the past year. A few interesting insights:
- Around two thirds of SMB leaders credit community and government support with helping them survive the pandemic.
- 71% of SMBs say their customers expect them to offer online transactions. Meanwhile, 63% of respondents say their business has an e-commerce presence, with 31% having introduced it in the past year!
- 75% of business leaders say the changes they’ve made to operations this year will benefit them in the long-term.
Facebook Global State of Small Business Report
Facebook’s Global State of Small Business report surveyed over 35,000 small and medium business owners from 30 countries, noting signs of recovery and compiling insights into women-led and minority-led businesses. Below are a few key takeaways:
- There are some hopeful signs of recovery, suggested by a 6% decrease in business closure rates and an increase in businesses reporting higher sales (up 22% between May 2020 and July 2021). However, more than half (52%) of businesses are still reporting lower sales.
- Minority-led SMBs were more likely to report closures, reductions in sales, and reduced employment. Female-led SMBs also reported more closures than male-led SMBs, although both closure rates have fallen over time.
- The most common business challenges were still a lack of demand (35% of respondents cited this as a challenge) and cash flow concerns (brought up by 33% of respondents). However, both these concerns have declined since early 2020, when 47% of businesses worried about lack of demand and 39% cited cash flow as a challenge.
Yelp Q3 2021 Economic Average
Yelp’s most recent quarterly economic average report showed that businesses in the U.S. were indeed recovering from 2020’s Covid-19 impact and adapting to the new pace of business in light of a still-evolving pandemic. Some interesting takeaways are noted below:
- Hiring and retail sales picked up in the fall after experiencing a slight summer dip. The impacts of the delta variant appear to be less drastic than predicted—though now the nation is facing omicron, the impacts of which are yet to be seen.
- Local businesses appear to be adapting to pandemic conditions, and the majority of those that had closed previously have now reopened. Of all the businesses that closed temporarily since the start of the pandemic, 85% have reopened again.
- There was a spike in new business openings across the leisure, beauty, and hospitality sectors. Interestingly, Yelp reported a 300% increase in oxygen bars, a 279% increase in dance clubs, and a 240% increase in comedy clubs over the past year. However, total new business openings remained fairly flat, up just 1% from Q3 2020.
WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Confidence Index
In contrast, the most recent monthly WSJ/Vistage survey of 567 respondents provides a more sobering view of the recovery, with small business confidence reportedly in decline for several consecutive months. WSJ/Vistage have highlighted supply shortages, slower economic growth, and dimmed revenue and profit expectations, noting that:
- 55% of businesses have reported domestic supply shortages and 49% have observed international supply shortages.
- 80% of businesses reported higher labor costs, and 60% of small businesses say they’ve had to raise prices in the past three months.
- Only 47% of respondents said that the economy had recently improved, falling from 77% in May 2021. A mere 26% expected the economy to improve in the next year, with many anticipating worse conditions.
NFIB Small Business Economic Trends Survey
The NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) releases a new economic trends report each month. The most recent report, released in November 2021, echoes many of the WSJ/Vistage findings:
- Only 38% of business owners expect conditions to improve over the next six months—one of the lowest results in 48 years.
- 59% of business owners said they’ve had to raise prices, the highest reading since October 1979. Furthermore, 54% are planning for future price hikes.
- 48% of owners reported having job openings they could not fill.
Alignable Road to Recovery Report
Alignable is an online small business referral network with over 6.5 million members across North America. They established the Alignable Research Center in March 2020 to track the pandemic’s impact on small businesses, and the findings from their most recent December 2021 survey of 5,818 small business owners indicate that:
- 42% of businesses were still feeling some negative impacts from the pandemic, but that was a decrease of 21% from the previous month.
- Business owners seem split on their predictions for how omicron will affect their recovery: 44% say they’re at least a little concerned whereas 44% say they have no concerns whatsoever.
- Business owners are most worried about inflation and the cost of supplies, as well as future government-mandated closures.
American Express 2021 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey
This year’s American Express survey points to signs of a consumer spending rebound and shows an encouraging surge in support for small businesses. A few positive signs include the following:
- The total projected spending for Small Business Saturday reached $23.3 billion this year, an 18% increase from 2020’s projected spending of $19.8 billion.
- 64% of consumers surveyed say that they prioritize shopping at underrepresented-owned businesses in their area.
- More shoppers than ever (58%) made small business purchases online this year, up from 43% in 2019, before the pandemic.
The U.S. Small Business Administration 2021 Small Business Profile
Each year, the U.S. Small Business Administration provides statistics about the state of small businesses across the country, and these are usually an interesting snapshot of the nation’s small business environment. However, their 2021 Small Business Profile draws on information gathered before the pandemic, so is not a good indicator of how small businesses are faring in the wake of Covid-19. Instead, we recommend reading the U.S. Small Business Administration’s supplemental report on the effects of Covid-19 on small businesses, which was released in March of 2021. It notes that Covid-19’s effects varied greatly across geographic regions, industries, and demographic categories, and reveals that metropolitan and coastal regions, as well as Black and Asian-owned businesses, were hardest hit.