Amid COVID, many businesses in precarious spot as 2020 ends

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This photo provided by Adam M. Rammel shows The Syndicate on Aug. 20, 2020 in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Ohios restrictions forced Adam Rammel to at least temporarily abandon plans for a catering and event space designed for parties and that opened last month, in time for the holidays. Rather than have the space sit unused, Rammel turned it into The Syndicate, a restaurant located next door to his 5-year-old brewpub, Brewfontaine. (Susie Jarvis/Adam M. Rammel via AP)

NEW YORK – The final three months of the year, usually a boom time for many small businesses thanks to holiday shopping and celebrations, looks precarious as the coronavirus maintains its grip on the economy.

Owners contending with government restrictions or crumbling demand are trying to hold on, with some creating new products and services or desperately searching for new customers. Others, however, have found they’re already well equipped to meet the lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic.

The big corporate and non-profit parties and events that Sophia D’Angelo ran before the virus outbreak have just about vanished. Large in-person gatherings that companies typically use to launch or promote their brands aren’t possible because of social distancing requirements.

“The fourth quarter was always the bulk of my business,” says D’Angelo, who owns Boston Experiential Group, based in Boston.

D’Angelo has had to get creative. She’s using her expertise to arrange small gatherings like holiday-themed dinners and parties at people’s homes, usually for no more than 10 guests.

The fourth quarter is a key time for many industries and companies of all sizes. Some retailers typically expect to make as much as half their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, as do many of their suppliers. Any business connected with holiday parties and celebrations also has high hopes for the October-December period.

But conditions are dicey this year. The coronavirus has devastated many small businesses; it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands already have closed forever. Many of the survivors are expected to struggle further during this quarter, especially as cases of the virus surge in some areas of the country. More businesses — restaurants and retailers in particular — will likely go out of business if they cannot bring in the revenue they need.

Restaurants face a difficult time as state and local governments limit the number of people they can serve. The impact of the social distancing can be seen in sales figures — the National Restaurant Association reported that 70% of restaurants suffered a drop in revenue during August from a year earlier.