UPS Original Research: A New Roadmap for the Future


Aerial view of curve road cut through the green forest in the highland mountains in Chiang Rai province, Thailand.


For the eighth week, UPS has conducted a study to measure the impact of COVID-19 on small and medium-sized businesses across the United States. This installment went to 336 U.S.-based respondents between May 13 and May 18.

The economy is showing clear signs of progress, with the survey data signaling a steady march upward since the low point of the pandemic observed five weeks ago.

One indication of this progress is the proportion of businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic. This number has dropped 14 points since its peak at 68 percent, with half of that progress coming in the last two weeks.


Businesses Are Opening Up

Another reassuring sign is the status of physical locations across the U.S. The share of businesses open and operating at normal or increased capacity rose from 47 percent two weeks ago to 56 percent this week.

Even more encouraging is that 72 percent of businesses expect to be open in 30 days.

It is undoubtedly good news that the data points to a recovery. But what will a recovery look like in practice for these small and medium-sized businesses?


A Glimpse of Recovery on the Horizon

Businesses expect that their return to pre-pandemic levels will be a slow, gradual process largely dependent on factors outside their direct control.

Here are the three issues most commonly cited as barriers to a full recovery:

  1. An effective and available vaccine
  2. The lifting of non-essential business restrictions and quarantine measures
  3. Customer willingness to resume pre-pandemic behaviors

As one business owner noted, it won’t feel like a full recovery until “we have an effective cure, sales steadily increase and employees are able to work normally.”


Shippers Are Getting Flexible

Small business owners acknowledge that to succeed in the post-pandemic environment, their business cannot operate exactly the same way as before.             

“We are adapting the way we do business to how our customers want to conduct business,” said one respondent.

These changes include retooling their supply chains, adjusting customer interactions and establishing safety protocols in the workplace.


“I believe that the changes we are making will transform our company and allow for greater sales success.”

- Small business survey respondent


More than just short-term changes in the works, businesses report that the pandemic has prompted them to prepare for another large-scale disruption.

They are investing in technology for future flexibility and cost efficiency — as one owner noted, “creating a budget for future crises so we won’t be caught off guard.”


Becoming Better than Before

The pandemic has forced many businesses to adjust on the fly. Some say these challenges have enabled them to innovate and adapt in a way they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

“I believe that the changes we are making will transform our company and allow for greater sales success,” said one respondent.

When asked how they are feeling about the long-term health of their businesses, the answer most often cited by respondents was “optimistic.”

Small business owners know the road to recovery will have many twists and turns, but they are ready to tackle whatever lies ahead.

UPS will deploy this survey every week to monitor the continuously evolving influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on small and medium-sized businesses.


Follow updates on UPS Longitudes


Republished with permission, this article was originally written by Chris Byrne on May 26, 2020. 

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