Small business owners hopeful but not optimistic heading into holiday season

Consumers aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch of inflation this holiday season; so are small business owners, according to Mike O’Halloran, the Maryland state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

“It’s an unfortunate reality as we lean into Thanksgiving that folks are really just going to have to buckle down with their discretionary funds,” he said.

While small business owners are hopeful that consumers will choose to spend those discretionary funds locally on Small Business Saturday, O’Halloran said owners are not optimistic.

Small business owners “are just not too enthusiastic over the next six months, about the prospects of the economy turning around, they’re still worried,” O’Halloran told WTOP in an interview Wednesday.

According to an October NFIB survey consisting of responses from 1,382 small business owners or members, about 22% of business owners said inflation is their primary worry.

Among the challenges, he said, is finding enough qualified applicants to fill jobs.

“The labor market is extremely tight,” O’Halloran said.

The October survey isn’t all gloom and doom: 17% of small businesses surveyed said they plan to increase employment and 24% plan capital outlays — they expect to spend on needed equipment or improve or expand their footprint.

“Whether that means improvements in a restaurant, or if they’re running a manufacturing shop, maybe they’re buying a new piece of equipment,” O’Halloran said.

However, finding enough qualified employees remains a challenge, according to the NFIB director.

“It’s not only just some of the larger sectors particularly here in Maryland, like cybersecurity and health care, but even the Main Street sector is still looking for a skilled labor force,” he said.

O’Halloran said Small Business Saturday is a very big deal.

“Small Business Saturday is a godsend for our Main Street community.” And he said, when consumers buy from or patronize local businesses, they “will get a one-of-a-kind experience when they go to their small business whether it’s this coming Saturday or any day of the year.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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