Small businesses in Pennsylvania share how they’ve adjusted to inflation ahead of holiday season

BEAVER FALLS, Pa. — First, there’s Black Friday, followed by Small Business Saturday. In Pennsylvania, 1.1 million small businesses employ nearly 2.5 million people. That’s almost half of the state’s private workforce.

But small businesses hit hard during COVID have been weathering a double whammy with skyrocketing inflation.

At Sinful Sweets, employees handcraft treats for display and sale at their downtown Beaver Falls storefront, but business owner Christopher Weck admits recent times have been tough.

“These are blue-collar towns. This is a specialty store,” said Weck.

“You used to get a lot of families coming through and bringing their kids through and having a big experience. When their finances aren’t in line, it’s just not something they can do anymore.”

Families have been feeling the pinch of inflation this year with everything from groceries to gas costing a lot more.

The same goes for small businesses. The cost of supplies has skyrocketed. Labor costs more. Lingering inflation and higher interest rates have impacted borrowing. And it’s always been hard for the little guys to go up against major retailers.

“The truth is, if you want rock bottom prices, you’re probably talking about Walmart or Amazon or another big player like that,” said Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at Bankrate.

But those savings may come at a cost.

“From a local commerce standpoint, a lot of people like having a robust downtown in their city or town. you don’t want to see a ton of closed stores. that’s not good for the economy or morale.”

Rossman says some small businesses have reimagined the way they showcase their products and services.

“We’ve seen a lot more small businesses going online, whether that’s through their own website, or selling as a 3rd party on a website like Amazon, Rakuten or Shopify.

A new survey by the US Census Bureau backs that up. Small business owners who are weathering the recent economic storm say they’ve survived by changing up.

For Sinful Sweets, that included closing a downtown Pittsburgh location, and keeping an eye on operating costs.

“You just have to be able to pivot really well. figure out what your best sellers are and how to market it correctly,” said Christopher Weck.

He’s making sure that inflation doesn’t take a huge bite out of his treat shop’s bottom line.

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