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Economic Data Suggests Business Still Down, But Improving Since Start of COVID-19 Pandemic

Park City Chamber/Bureau

With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing and likely to last into 2021, the health of local Park City businesses is a topic on a lot of peoples’ minds. Recent economic data suggests that even though business is still down compared to 2019, numbers have been slowly improving as a whole.


It’s no secret the last six months have been tough on small businesses nationwide. The Park City business community has been far from immune to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spring lockdowns, summer mask orders, and new health restrictions have all combined to create a tough economic landscape.


The Historic Park City Alliance presented economic data compiled from 34 local businesses since the start of the pandemic at their monthly meeting this week. The HPCA’s Alison Kuhlow said local businesses were actually surpassing 2019’s monthly numbers at the start of the year but fell off sharply in March when the first COVID-19 lockdowns were put in place.


“You know, if you look at the report, everyone was doing really well in February,” she said. “February was looking strong and that was the reason why we asked people about February, we wanted to just make sure we were seeing strong years as we have in the past. And then one March hit, you know, everything went down.”


The HPCA’s data is compiled from business across a variety of industries, including retail shops and restaurants. As a whole, Main Street businesses were averaging a 22% increase in sales in February 2020 compared to February 2019.


The next few months, however, were a different story.


With the pandemic in full swing by the end of March, April was by far the hardest month for local businesses with an average 70% decline in business compared to 2019 numbers.


Businesses did manage to claw back to only a 7% deficit by the end of July but a closer look at the data revealed an interesting caveat.    


KPCW reported in early September that real estate sales for 2020 have been off the charts with local real estate agents selling more properties in the Wasatch Back year-to-date than they did all of 2019.


Furniture galleries and home decor stores have reaped the benefits of the local real estate boom and saw sales in May, June, and July soar to as high as 76% above 2019 levels. 


Kuhlow said although a certain sector of the business community may be booming, the rest are still averaging over 30% fewer sales than last year.


“If you were to look at just our summer numbers, June and July, we are only down 7% but if you take out galleries, we’re down closer to I think it’s 35%,” said Kuhlow. “I don’t want to say the galleries are skewing our numbers because they’re truly part of us, but the galleries are showing the highest sales and that also corresponds with real estate activity.”


The six month average for local business sales sits at 26% below the same period of 2019 but summer months trending in the right direction are encouraging. 


With the winter tourist season fast approaching and plans in place at local ski resorts for an influx in visitors to the Wasatch Back, local businesses could see a much needed boost in the near future -- provided there are no new COVID-19 related restrictions.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.