Small businesses are usually the most affected by inflation. This is because they have limited access to capital, bargaining power, and pricing power compared to larger corporations. Many small companies went out of business during the COVID-19 lockdown, and those who remained afloat barely made it through.
More recently, small business owners have had to contend with inflation driving up the cost of operations while also reducing consumer purchasing power. This has forced organizations to tighten their belts to ensure they don’t go out of business. However, there’s finally some good news on Main Street regarding inflation, and the recent economic data gives small business owners the confidence to keep going.
How Inflation Impacts Small Businesses in Particular
Inflation refers to the sustained increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. It means that, on average, prices are rising, and each currency unit can buy less than it previously could. Inflation occurs when there is an imbalance between the supply of money and goods and services in an economy.
Inflation impacts every sector but significantly affects smaller businesses due to their limited resources to combat rising costs. In 2022, the National Federation of Independent Business reported that nearly 90% of small businesses stated that inflation unfavorably impacted their business.
Here are some ways in which inflation can impact small businesses:
Inflation often leads to an increase in the prices of goods and services. Small businesses, especially those operating on narrow profit margins, may struggle to absorb these rising costs. When overhead costs rise, small businesses are forced to either increase their prices, which could reduce customer demand, or find ways to cut expenses elsewhere, such as reducing staff or compromising the quality of their products or services.
Reduced Consumer Spending
As the general price level rises due to inflation, consumers’ purchasing power decreases. This can result in reduced spending on non-essential items, negatively affecting small businesses that rely heavily on discretionary consumer spending. Small retailers, restaurants, and entertainment venues may experience a decline in sales as consumers prioritize essential purchases.
Inflation can affect borrowing costs, including interest rates on loans and lines of credit. Small businesses that rely on external financing may face higher interest expenses, making it more expensive to expand operations, invest in new equipment, or undertake other growth initiatives. This can limit their ability to compete with larger enterprises with more substantial resources.
Inventory Management Challenges
Inflation can create difficulties in managing inventory for small businesses. If prices rise rapidly, companies may face challenges in accurately forecasting future demand and determining optimal inventory levels. Overstocking could lead to increased carrying costs and potential losses if demand doesn’t meet expectations while understocking could result in missed sales opportunities and dissatisfied customers.
Inflation can create wage pressures as employees seek to maintain their purchasing power. Small businesses may face challenges in offering competitive wages to attract and retain talent, especially if they are unable to increase prices or generate sufficient revenue growth. This can lead to higher labor costs and potentially impact profitability.
Good News for Small Businesses
Most people view inflation as the Big Bad, and it is easy to see why. If you had $300,000 in your savings account in 2005, that amount wouldn’t go as far in 2023. Inflation is always happening, so by understanding this, small business owners can find ways to cushion themselves during dire times.
The Federal Reserve tries to maintain a 2% inflation rate per year. This is because anything lower than that may weaken the economy. The inflation rate in June 2022 was 9.1%. The good news is that this number has been steadily decreasing since November, and the future looks somewhat brighter, especially for small business owners.
According to the Consumer Price Index, the inflation rate in November 2022 was 7.1%, and by the time the year was closing out, it had dropped even further to 6.5%. A June 2023 CPI report confirms inflation to have cooled to 3%, which offers some great news to small businesses especially.
Small business owners are seemingly optimistic about the economy, with 25% of companies planning for capital expenditures in the next 3–6 months. This is a 4% increase from 21% at the start of the year and a 6% increase from 19% following the March bank failures.
19% of small business owners from another survey said they intend to create new jobs in the coming three months. 40%, up from 34% last year, describe their current conditions as good, while 46% report they expect revenue to increase in the next year.
Bad News for Small Businesses
Despite the uptick in optimism, small business owners still view inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labor quality as their top concerns. While companies are hiring, an NFIB survey reported that 44% of owners were struggling to fill the reported job openings. 63% of owners said they were hiring in May, but nearly 90% said they couldn’t find qualified applicants for open positions.
Small business owners may also find themselves with another situation on hand as a UPS strike looms. With the contract between UPS and 340,000 UPS workers represented by the Teamsters Union expiring on July 31, employee pay remains a sticky point. Union workers account for over half of UPS’s workforce. Therefore, a strike could be devastating for the company and small businesses relying on the carrier.
The looming strike comes 25 years after a similarly larger strike by 185,000 workers brought the courier to a standstill. The strike, which lasted for 15 days, slashed package deliveries and put a strain on the US Postal Service and FedEx, who had to pick up the pace, effectively paralyzing businesses nationwide.
If a deal is not reached by the deadline, the strike will cause broader supply chain disruptions, and small business owners may need to find alternative ways to ship their last-mile deliveries to cope.
5 Tips to Help Small Businesses Mitigate the Impact of Inflation
Monitor and Adjust Prices
Regularly review your pricing strategy and assess the impact of inflation on your costs. Consider adjusting prices accordingly to maintain profit margins. However, it’s essential to strike a balance between maintaining profitability and remaining competitive. Communicate any price adjustments transparently with your customers to manage their expectations.
Analyze your cost structure and identify areas where you can reduce expenses or find efficiencies. Look for opportunities to negotiate better deals with suppliers, streamline operations, and optimize resource allocation. Implement cost-saving measures without compromising the quality of your products or services.
Explore alternative suppliers and sources for materials or inputs. This can help you mitigate the risk of supply chain disruptions and price fluctuations caused by inflation. Having multiple suppliers can provide flexibility and negotiation power, enabling you to secure better pricing terms.
Improve Inventory Management
Efficient inventory management is crucial during inflationary periods. Analyze your sales patterns, customer demand, and lead times to optimize your inventory levels. Avoid overstocking or understocking, as both can lead to financial losses. Consider adopting just-in-time inventory systems or implementing inventory management software to improve accuracy and responsiveness.
Enhance Customer Value
Focus on delivering exceptional value to your customers to retain their loyalty and justify your pricing. Identify ways to differentiate your products or services, such as improving quality, offering unique features, or providing outstanding customer service. Build strong relationships with your customer base and communicate the value proposition effectively.
Explore Alternative Financing Options
If inflation increases borrowing costs, explore alternative financing options. Seek out financial institutions or lenders offering competitive rates or consider alternative financing methods like crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending. Maintaining a good credit history and financial records increases your chances of securing favorable financing terms.
Enhance Operational Efficiency
Continuously seek opportunities to improve your operational efficiency. This can include automating processes, investing in technology, cross-training employees, or optimizing workflows. By reducing waste and increasing productivity, you can mitigate the impact of rising inflation-related costs.
Stay aware of economic trends, inflation rates, and market conditions. Regularly monitor industry news, economic indicators, and government policies that may impact your business. Stay connected with professional networks and business associations to gain insights and access resources that can help you navigate inflationary environments.
While inflation continues to pose significant challenges, the recent economic data on inflation brings a ray of hope for small business owners. As small business owners, staying adaptable, proactive, and open to embracing new strategies and technologies that can drive resilience and sustainability is important.
If you’re a small business owner concerned about navigating the challenges of inflation, reach out to Brenden Kelley Law. Our experienced team of attorneys will provide the legal guidance and support you need. From reviewing contracts and leases to advising on pricing strategies and cost management, we have the expertise to help safeguard your business against the impacts of inflation. Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. Contact us today, and let us help you secure a brighter future for your small business.