Business Recovery Roundtable – Shuttered Business Session

Sponsored by SRP

A total of seven businesses from a variety of industries including fitness center/gyms, spa/massage therapists, restaurants/bars, and arts/entertainment joined our second roundtable discussion with Mayor Brigette Peterson, team members of Gilbert’s Office of Economic Development, the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, and JW Rayhons of Joshua Development.

Our goal was to hear from business who were required to close their business or severely reduce capacity to learn how their businesses have been impacted over the past year, understand current challenges, and gain insight to their expectations in the year ahead. The businesses in attendance experienced forced closures from a range of 2-7+months.

When asked to share the biggest challenge their business is facing currently, attendees expressed the following concerns:

  • Now that many businesses have reopened to full capacity, staffing continues to be a common challenge both in hiring new qualified staff and retaining current staff. A variety of reasons may be a factor, including benefits received on unemployment, minimum wage increases, and people shifting to other career fields/industries.
  • Business owners have increased wages and have enhanced their benefit offerings just to attract new talent and retain current staff.
  • Another common challenge comes from the division created by the safety precautions/policies the business requires. To protect staff, some businesses have provided a script for employees to follow regarding questions or complaints on safety precautions in place.
  • Businesses expressed the need for help in providing messaging that is welcoming to customers with different preferences and comfort levels.
  • Many businesses are still struggling with supply chain issues when it comes to both general supplies and food/beverage. This challenge also includes skyrocketing price points for commonly needed supplies.

Business shared what they are doing to adjust during these challenges:

  • Businesses are seeking new ways to gain exposure and increase their customer base.
  • The use of technology in new ways has proven beneficial for many. For example, a local theater provides a mobile version of their Playbill and a restaurant owner who typically provides one-to-one training for new staff now provides training videos to help new staff get up to speed while continuing to social distance in the workplace.
  • Other businesses have increased their advertising budget to help enhance their online presence.

Looking to the future, businesses were asked to share any insights on market trends for their industries:

  • Many service industry businesses are seeing employees shift away into other career paths.
  • Regarding the massage therapy industry, one business owner shared she has seen massage therapists move to work out of chiropractic or other medical offices as they were allowed to remain open during the pandemic.
  • Businesses are also seeing younger workers move to jobs which allow for more flexibility and remote work options.