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Pandemic led to U.S. housing boom, reduced credit card debt, New York Fed says

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Photo by Adam Kontor on Pexels.com

Last month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released their quarterly report on Household Debt and Credit for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Although the ravages of the pandemic are still massive and widespread, there were some glimmers of a silver lining. Some takeaways being:

  • The coronavirus pandemic changed the way U.S. consumers use credit, as lower interest rates spurred a boom in home buying and refinancing and virus-related shutdowns led to a drop in credit card use and an increase in paying off debt, according to a report released on Wednesday by the New York Federal Reserve.
  • Home buying and refinancing took off last year after the Federal Reserve slashed its key overnight interest rate to near zero to fight the economic fallout from the pandemic, leading to lower mortgage rates. A massive shift to working and learning from home also bolstered the housing market, as some families searched for properties with more living space.
  • Credit card balances increased by $12 billion in the fourth quarter but balances were still $108 billion lower from a year earlier – the largest yearly decline since the report was launched in 1999.
  • In total, all household debt not related to housing – including credit card debt, auto loans, student loans, and other debts – increased by $37 billion during the fourth quarter but was still below pre-pandemic levels seen at the end of 2019.

Read the full report here.

Lipstick on a pig and recession-proof businesses

Lipstick on a pig and recession-proof businesses - Your Startup Guru
Lipstick on a pig and recession-proof businesses – Your Startup Guru

Welp, there’s no need to put lipstick on a pig. Today’s GDP data released by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that real gross domestic product (GDP) decreased at an annual rate of 32.9 percent in the second quarter of 2020, according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP decreased 5.0 percent.

Chart showing Real GDP: Percent change from preceding quarter

This is really bad news which means figuring out how to mitigate damage and making all adjustments by bootstrapping. Many businesses such as bookstores, farms, and clothing manufacturers pivoted their business models to adapt to the impact of COVID-19.

One thing I learned while working with my client KiloNiner several years ago is that pet products were largely recession-proof during the 2007-2009 recession. This is because people view their pets as family members so cutting back was avoided. There are many other businesses are that recession-proof as long as adjustments are made to accommodate social-distancing requirements:

  • Repair / maintenance services: People will still need their plumbing to work, their lights to turn on, and their car engines to run
  • Dry cleaning / laundry: Laundered clothing and materials will always be needed as long as people wear clothes and don’t have in-house machines. Dry cleaning for clothing might decline as formal wear is reduced but will not go away as people still wear jackets, etc. on occasion.
  • Professional services: Accountants, lawyers, and other administrative professionals still needed for the economy to run.
  • Funeral / Memorial services: A natural consequence of life is death. Particularly with the unsettlingly high mortality numbers associated with COVID-19, demand will likely be high for a very long time.

There are many more industries and even sectors/value-chain-links within floundering industries that are somewhat insulated from recessions. Your Startup Guru provides industry/market research as well as a wide range of other services for businesses to help navigate this turbulent economic climate. Contact us and let’s figure out a plan for you.

Old school business model

I just saw a commercial for Rent-A-Center and thought to myself that their old school business model is nearly a half center ahead of the times.

Founded in 1974, Rent-A-Center is an American public furniture and electronics rent-to-own company based in Plano, Texas. The company was incorporated in 1986 and as of 2014 operates approximately 2,972 company-owned stores in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico, accounting for approximately 35% of the rent-to-own market in the United States based on store count.

A convergence of trends—including the Mari Kondo-sparked enthusiasm for cleaning out closets, increased concern over the impact of climate change, and a movement toward smaller, urban apartments—has made millennial consumers more conscious of how many items they’re accumulating.

Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman.

As you may know, companies are taking a similar business model and expanding it to other consumer sectors such as clothing and jewelry. This model has already been applied to transportation with Lyft/taxis/vehicle leasing and with housing with AirBnB/hotels/apartments and intellectual property with game rentals/public libraries. Entering into the fray are companies like Rent the Runway, which rents unlimited designer styles to subscribers and Fat Llama, which rents electronics (in the UK).

A convergence of trends—including the Mari Kondo-sparked enthusiasm for cleaning out closets, increased concern over the impact of climate change, and a movement toward smaller, urban apartments—has made millennial consumers more conscious of how many items they’re accumulating, according to Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman.

The spending habits of millennials, the largest single consumer group out there with 83.1 million (a full quarter of the U.S. population), was surveyed. The survey found that the main reason why they rent is to “test things before purchasing” at 57%. This makes sense with money being tight and space being limited, every purchase has to be scrutinized. The results of the survey are shown in the infographic below:

World Economic Forum: This is how millennials are fueling the rental economy

Old school brands such as Play it Again Sports and Rent-A-Center are riding the boom of the change in consumer sentiment and behavior. Rent-A-Center’s revenue grew $9M between 2018 and 2019 to $2.6B, operating income balloon an astounding $197M between 2018 and 2019 to $253M, helping net income to increase by $165M to $173M.

SBA EIDL Application

The Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) application from the Small Business Administration is fairly straightforward.

If you need assistance in filling it out, please contact me today as funds are limited and applications are coming in quickly.

4/16/2020 UPDATE: A loan officer from the SBA called me today to let me know that they will send an email with a .gov link (https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/ do NOT click on any other URL extensions as there are many scams out there). Once I clicked on that, I resubmitted the same application which then takes me to the approval process.

Adaptability is the most powerful trait

You have probably noticed the deluge of advertising that is targeted to the new reality of being at home. This is obviously a response to the global pandemic we are all being affected by. The following is a breakdown of what is happening and how your business can harness the post powerful trait: adaptability.

Adapt Through Marketing Strategy Marketing

Aired prior to the COVID-19 crisis but replayed recently Campbell’s realized that people are stockpiling canned food. Set to a wholesome and nostalgic soundtrack without pandering to panic buying, they capitalized on an opportunity to remind customers of a classic pairing. On a side note, the music choice was oddly relevant — Thank You For Being a Friend was the theme song to the ’80s sitcom The Golden Girls and the elderly are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Also, more people are telecommuting and are realizing their home computers might not be suitable for work so Dell aired a commercial for one of their newest laptops. Peloton, home office chairs, etc. are all advertising the benefits of being healthy and productive at home. Also, mental health app Talkspace, Delta Airlines offering free flights for medical volunteers, online education, bidets, and more are using this opportunity to advertise their products and services.

Adapt by Seizing the Opportunity

Adaptability Charles Darwin - Your Startup Guru
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

When disruptions happen, it is important to consider alternatives in order to adapt to the new environment. I have advised a new restaurant client to pivot their business model from a brick and mortar location to a commercial kitchen or food truck and adjusted their ad hoc financial projection model to reflect the pivot. Of course, depending on the stage of a business pivoting to a commercial kitchen or truck is not an option; which is why I always provide tailored consultations to each client.

Many people have a lot of downtime now with not having to go into work. It is a good time to take a break from watching the news and start mapping out the idea that you’ve been mulling. Who is your target market? Where will you be located? What are your startup costs? These are all questions you should know the answers to or be actively seeking if you are serious about taking the next step. If you do not know the answers or want a second opinion on, I always provide free consultation so send me an email. Afterwards, those pushup challenges on social media are also a good healthy distraction too from all the dire news.

These are better practices than gouging prices like that hand sanitizer guy.

sanitizer price gouging guy

A lifeline for small businesses

COVID 19 Your Startup Guru

COVID-19 is devastating the world economy to a degree which caused circuit breakers in the US markets to halt trading twice and oil prices to plunge below $30 per barrel.  These macroeconomic tsunamis will cause waves to affect all aspects of daily operations for small businesses including closures, diminishing customer base, and supply chain disruptions.  However, there is some relief:

1.  U.S. Treasury to Help Advance Funds to Employers for Paid Sick Leave

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his agency would advance funds to businesses so they can meet paid sick-leave requirements under a new House bill to combat the novel coronavirus.

In a statement late Saturday night, Mr. Mnuchin said employers will be able to use cash deposited with the Internal Revenue Service to pay sick-leave wages. For businesses that wouldn’t have sufficient taxes to draw from, the Treasury would make advances to cover the costs, he said.  Read the full article here.

2.  The Treasury Department is not your only option, SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for a small business. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.

  • the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s Governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.
  • Any such Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance declaration issued by the SBA makes loans available to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations in designated areas of a state or territory to help alleviate economic injury caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will coordinate with the state’s or territory’s Governor to submit the request for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance.
  • Once a declaration is made for designated areas within a state, the information on the application process for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance will be made available to all affected communities as well as updated on our website: SBA.gov/disaster.
  • SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
  • These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.
  • SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.
  • SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans are just one piece of the expanded focus of the federal government’s coordinated response, and the SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible.

In order to get the process started to receive SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans, contact Your Startup Guru here today

Nearly 400 Investors With $32 Trillion In Assets Step Up Climate Action To Support Paris Agreement

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FYI, if you’re a greentech or cleantech company, there may be some capital available for your business.

Read more about the Investor Agenda here.

Great Small Business Saturday

Shop Small Saturday - Your Startup Guru

Small Business Saturday saw a record 112 million shoppers this year, setting a new record for the retail event.  This was a 13% increase over last year’s SBS.

Part of this increase is greater awareness with 72 percent of U.S. consumers now know about Small Business Saturday. That’s a slight uptick from the 70 percent in 2015.  Additionally, almost nine in 10 Americans view small businesses favorably, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Public Affairs Council.

Good employment report

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Federal Reserve Chairwoman, Janet Yellen.  Source:  Getty Images

The U.S. labor market in July capped off the best two-month stretch of hiring so far this year, a sign of strength for an economy that has been showing mixed growth signals in recent months.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by a seasonally adjusted 255,000 last month, the Labor Department said Friday. Wages for private-sector workers matched their strongest annual pace of growth in seven years, more Americans entered the labor force during the month and the jobless rate held steady 4.9%.

This could mean greater spending on goods and services such as the goods and services that your business sells  =)

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