A lot of attention has rightfully been paid on restaurant’s ability to weather the COVID pandemic. According to new Yelp data just released, restaurants, bars, and nightlife have been hit the hardest by the virus and accompanying lockdown restrictions: 32,109 restaurants have closed in the past six months, and 61% of them won’t reopen.
While tragic, bars and restaurants represent only a small fraction of businesses that are currently shut down. According to Yelp’s new Economic Impact report, 163,735 businesses have closed—a 23% increase since mid-July. This means that even as policymakers lifted COVID restrictions, for many businesses, relief came too late. 97,966 of these closures, according to Yelp, are permanent. Among them: my local nail salon in Washington, D.C.
Justin Norman, Yelp’s vice president of data science, told CNBC that policy changes in the coming weeks and months could have an impact on whether more closures become permanent. “The continued rollout of indoor dining, especially in metros like New York City, will be worth watching as it will be critical for businesses to maintain the right balance of practicing social distancing and other responsible safety measures to ensure they can stay open,” he said.
COVID will bring about many long-term changes—some good, others bad. In the manicure space, the future could be especially difficult. ManiMe, a startup that sells stick-on gel nail sets that are laser-cut to fit your nail shapes based on photos uploaded when ordering online, stepped up at the right time and is experiencing a massive boom. At only $15-$25 a pop, ManiMe is a great example of the free market’s ability to innovate. But while it’s a convenient, at-home model for those of us who miss getting our nails done, ManiMe spells trouble for the larger industry. Will the increased competition cause more of our local nail salons, many of which already operate on a razor-thin margin, to shut down?
As policymakers work to strike the right balance between protecting public safety and enabling small businesses to survive, let’s hope they consider professions like manicurists, who don’t have big microphones, but face increased competition and decreased work.
The ability to get a manicure might sound trivial in the middle of a global pandemic, but if policymakers force more nail salons and the likes to shut down, it will leave more than a chip on the nation’s economy. Plus, in a post-COVID world, who’s not going to want a good mani?