The sky is clearing up for small traders, restaurateurs, craftsmen or building liberals. According to a study carried out among 6,200 local businesses, their turnover recorded a clear growth compared to 2020. + 51.5% compared to last year at the same period. 20% of business leaders report an improvement in their cash flow while 13% report a deterioration. A balance of power never seen since 2019. With the introduction of new health measures, will the figures for the summer season be so encouraging? Explanation with Dominique Métayer, president of the Union of local businesses (U2P).
Between the health pass and inclement weather, small traders have had to face new constraints in recent months. What conclusions can we draw from the summer season?
We have seen in recent months a number of trades on the verge of nervous breakdown and despair. Today this is no longer the case. Hope is very present and we can see that a way out of the crisis is taking place. The health pass is for the moment our only solution to extricate ourselves from the crisis and resume an almost normal activity. For many this constraint is only secondary. Take, for example, the restaurant business. There is still a form of enthusiasm. What emerges is that the professionals are delighted to be able to practice. They can finally rake in sales, so their morale is boosted. The first two quarters of the year have shown an improvement and the first comebacks seem to indicate that we are on the same path. As for the weather, this is an additional problem that we already have to face in normal times. Obviously, the level of activity for 2019 has not been reached but the turnover of local businesses is much better than in 2020.
So the introduction of the health pass for certain sectors has not had a devastating effect on the activity of local businesses?
During the presentation of this measure there was nevertheless an outcry. Everyone can have their opinion on the constraint of the health pass. But I personally think it’s better than re-containment. All things considered, we can see that this measure secures consumers who are less anxious and more inclined to consume in places subject to the sanitary pass. Obviously there is an overall drop in frequentation in cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs but it is difficult to say that the past is the cause. The businesses go from the impossibility of receiving of the public to find the major part of their customers thus it is a progress.
We are in the middle of the back-to-school period and the end-of-year celebrations are just around the corner. What are the prospects and what can we expect from these crucial periods?
We already hope to emerge from this crisis at the end of the year and indeed, that a large number of companies will not have ceased their activity. We want to be able to support those who will be the most in difficulty. Many French people have been able to save since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the improvement of the health situation, we are able to envisage unbridled consumption for those who have had the chance to put aside. We must mention another parameter which has become essential for traders: the maintenance of social peace. Since the end of 2018 and the yellow vests, many social movements have been linked and have been particularly harmful for small businesses. It would be a shame if we got out of Covid-19 and were faced with things that would paralyze the current weak recovery.
Have local businesses had to adapt their operations? If yes, how ?
Traders have been able to be agile and find solutions in this stagnation. As local businesses, our nature is to be in contact with the customer. But this crisis has allowed the generalization of click & collect which has been saving, financially and especially morally, for many businesses. Customers seem to have taken a liking to this mode of consumption and entrepreneurs have had and been able to respond to this phenomenon. Not all of them have the means to change their operations, but we recommend that small businesses acquire digital equipment. The website, click & collect or home delivery are now necessary services for their visibility. This is why we are campaigning so that the smallest structures that wish to evolve can receive state aid in this direction.