People order breakfast at Bill Smith’s Cafe after Texas Governor Greg Abbott rolled back coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions on March 10, 2021 in McKinney, Texas.
Shelby Tauber | Reuters
Since the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic a year ago Thursday, new Yelp data shows that nearly half a million businesses have opened in America during that time, an optimistic sign of the state of the US economic recovery.
Between March 11, 2020 and March 1, 2021, Yelp listed more than 487,500 new businesses on its platform in the United States. That is only 14% less than in the same period last year. More than 15% of the new businesses were restaurant and food companies.
First discovered in China, the novel coronavirus is said to have surfaced in Wuhan in late 2019 before quickly spreading around the world, infecting 118 million people and causing 2.6 million deaths. This is based on data from Johns Hopkins University.
Virus mitigation efforts in countries around the world, including the United States, have ranged from total bans to partial closings, to reducing the capacity of unnecessary businesses and services. Masks and social distancing were hallmarks of the pandemic. The economic damage caused by the crisis was quick.
However, more than 260,800 businesses that had closed due to Covid restrictions reopened from March 11, 2020 to March 1, according to Yelp, which has published reports on the impact on the local economy throughout the pandemic. About 85,000 of these were restaurants and grocery companies.
Justin Norman, vice president of data science at Yelp, sees optimism in the numbers.
“As more Americans continue to be vaccinated, the number of cases continues to drop, and the Congressional Covid Relief Act, which provides additional help, is distributed, we expect companies that struggled last year will recover “Norman told CNBC. “We can see this in the 260,000 companies that have reopened after being temporarily closed.”
Of the nearly half a million newly opened businesses, 59% were in the Professional, Local, Home and Auto category on Yelp.
“The number of new openings – particularly the high number of new business units for residential, local, professional and auto services – shows great potential for these industries in the future,” said Norman.
Pandemic trends can stay here
Yelp said certain trends emerging from the pandemic could stay here. As consumers spend more time at home, Yelp saw an increase in home improvement interest. The company found that the average ratings for home office renovations were up 75% and bathroom renovations were up 80% year over year.
“I expect people will still invest in quality home offices or improve their homes,” said Norman. “As the warmer summer months come and the number of vaccines administered continues to rise, people who don’t want to return to the office this year may be focusing on more home improvement projects.”
Yelp’s new business data also shows that the constraints caused by the pandemic accelerated the adaptability of businesses through the use of technology and changing the way they interact with their customers.
Among the new openings, the number of food trucks rose by 12% and that of food delivery companies by 128%. “The increase in grocery delivery services would have been easy to predict, although we may not have predicted that they would continue to grow a year later,” said Norman.
He also said he was surprised at how local businesses have integrated the tools that the technology offers. “It was incredibly impressive and encouraging to see how many local businesses in both large cities and small towns have used technology to serve customers during this challenging time.”
Yelp also saw changes in the way companies specifically interacted with its app. In 2020, 1.5 million businesses updated their hours of operation through Yelp, 500,000 reported offering virtual services, and 450,000+ businesses created a custom message at the top of their page to speak directly to customers.
In addition to the positive data on food and restaurant delivery, Norman was surprised to see some trends over the year that indicated a change in the way consumers interacted with everyday life. Yelp found that consumer interest in clairvoyants increased 74% year over year and astrologers increased 63%. Yelp measures consumer interest in page views, posts, or reviews.
“It was also surprising to find that consumer interest in notaries on Yelp grew 52% as many federal and state regulations allowed remote notarial deeds,” said Norman. “While Yelp data doesn’t provide an in-depth look at what people have notarized over the past year, Yelp data shows a trend for couples to have smaller, more intimate weddings rather than more traditional large weddings with low interest rates and property prices in certain markets. “
A year later, it is clear that the companies that survived had to find new ways to operate, and that many of the changes will be permanent. “We have seen more companies prefer app-enabled delivery, software tools like reservations and waiting lists, and consumer-centric communication tools like Covid’s health and safety measures. Digital local business is here to stay,” said Norman.