Surveys provide snapshot of how Edmonds businesses are faring during COVID-19

How are Edmonds businesses faring during the COVID-19 pandemic? Two recent online surveys provide some insight into that question.

One effort — an Edmonds Business Needs Survey — was formulated by the Citizens Economic Development Commission (CEDC) and distributed by the City of Edmonds

A total of 116 businesses responded to the survey, which was conducted via Survey Monkey and publicized via social media and through the city’s business organizations (Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association and the Edmonds Downtown Alliance), said Patrick Doherty, the city’s Community Services and Economic Development Director who also staffs the CEDC.

Edmonds has a total of 2,134 licensed “in-city” businesses, with another 1,278 licensed to do business here but located elsewhere, Doherty said.

Of those responding, 28% were in the retail sector, 22% in hospitality (restaurant/catering/lodging), 17% in personal services (such as a salon or gym), 10% in professional services and another 10% in arts and entertainment. The remainder were in banking/finance, education/child care, and nonprofits.

The survey included a range of questions, from the percentage of normal activity at which the responding business operating to the biggest challenges a business is facing during the pandemic.

Among the takeaways:

– A third of businesses responding — 33% — said that they were operating at 50-74% of normal activity, and 32% said that operations were 25-49% of normal. A total of 11% were operating at less than 25% of normal and 8% were currently closed. Just under 5% of businesses said they were operating at 100%.

– Open businesses have taken a range of measures to operate safely during the pandemic. For example, 87% require face masks for employees, 85% have changed how they engage with customers, 67% have rearranged their workspace or floor plan and 50% take temperatures of employees or customers. Of those responding, nearly 47% have changed how they engage with suppliers while nearly 34% have adjusted the locations of their workers, such as having them work from home or adding another workspace for social distancing.

– In response a question regarding the biggest challenges in operating their business, there were three main answers: For nearly 67 percent, it was the concern of safety for employees or customers. For 65%, it was a shortage of cash/capital on hand due to business closure or slowdown. And for 63%, it was the worry that customers may not return, or will return too slowly.

– Addressing a question regarding what resources they need to be successful during the pandemic, nearly 85% of those responding said it was working capital, such as loans or grants. The second greatest need, according to 33% of respondents, was protective equipment such as face masks/shields and rubber gloves. Other needed resources were workers/employees (17%), education or training on customer or employee safety (nearly 12%), nd thermometers (nearly 10%).

– Asked what education/collaborative resources would help their business stay open/thrive, 72% responded it was loan or grant information, nearly 26% said it was information on lessons learned/better practices from other Edmonds businesses, and nearly 26% replied they could use finance seminar/information. Just over 3% of those responding said they would like information on bankruptcy.

Businesses were also asked an open-ended question: If there was any help they could use from local city leaders “to help you sustain your businesses at this time.” The answers (see full list here) ranged from the need for more financial help in the form of grants or loans, to talking to landlords “to convince them to reduce rent,” to “finding solutions that will help business in all of Edmonds not just downtown core.” There were also a range of opinions expressed regarding the city’s decision to partially close Main Street on weekends, with some supportive and others opposed.

Related to that city initiative, known as Walkable Main Street, the Edmonds Downtown Association last month conducted its own survey, which had a 57% response rate among the 115 survey invitations sent. Of those responding, the majority (61%) were retail businesses while 29% were restaurants, and 9% defined as other.

Edmonds Downtown Association President Pam Stuller said the survey was aimed at addressing “a fair amount of discord amongst our downtown Edmonds business community” after the city implemented Walkable Main Street. The initiative, which involves closing Main Street between 6th and 3rd Avenues South to vehicles on weekends, is designed to give customers a pedestrian-friendly environment and businesses room to expand services outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s set to run through the weekend of Oct. 10-11.

Of those responding to the Edmonds Downtown Alliance survey, 58% were located within the closed area of Walkable Main Street. Two-thirds of those responding have been at their current location six years or more, while the remainder at their location for five years or fewer.

Among the Edmonds Downtown Alliance survey results:

– 59% of those responding, regardless of whether they had a business in the closed zone, said they supported the Walkable Main Street concept, while 22% were neutral and 17% were opposed. A total of 70% of those located within the Walkable Edmonds zone supported the idea, with 13% neutral and 17% opposed.

– 36% of those responding said Walkable Main Street has increased their business, 29% said it has decreased it and 31% said it had no impact.

– Among the top reasons given for supporting Walkable Main Street, 21% cited safety and 16% pointed to increased foot traffic. Other reasons included that it is good for restaurants, brings others to Edmonds, and demonstrates community spirit.

– The top three concerns regarding Walkable Main Street included parking (27%), that it doesn’t help business (10%), COVID and pedestrian safety (9%) and the aesthetics of the signs and barriers (9%).

– When asked to rate how Walkable Main Street was implemented, 37% of respondents said they were satisfied/very satisfied, 33% were dissatisfied/very dissatisfied and 28% were neutral.

The goal of the survey, Stuller said, was to “try to get more information from members to open the dialogue so they could learn more about issues and come to a consensus and take that input to the city.” There was also a roundtable discussion via Zoom, with about 20 businesses participating, she said.

While Walkable Main Street has been “really fabulous” for the restaurant community, Stuller stressed that she wanted to ensure that all types of businesses were heard.

— By Teresa Wippel


    1. Mr. Haug: I apologize for the delay in replying to your comment where you floated the idea of a different tax arrangement than we currently have.

      I have written our representatives and am frustrated when I don’t receive a reply, and definitely want to provide you the courtesy of a response. Since that thread is now locked, I am glad to have found you here! I had been having technical difficulties, and was unable to find time to respond earlier.

      I can affirm that I perceive merit in the concept you presented. However, I can simultaneously recognize and share some of the concerns others offered.

      I don’t have a preconceived solution to our regressive tax system in mind, but I have convictions. My goal is to effectively convey those convictions so that voters will be confident that whatever the challenge, I will be a champion to support families, maintain freedoms, and promote justice next year.

      1. Thanks for finding me Brian. Just a couple of points for someone running for office.
        1. You and your opponent both acknowledge an we have issues with our regressive tax system.
        2. Your opponent has supported a tax that is not constitutional.
        3. You acknowledge merit to a flat rate income tax.
        4. You state you share some of the concerns of offered by others. The only concern offered by others is the introduction of a 3 tax will lead to uncontrolled tax increases. I did not see any other concerns offered but maybe you did.
        5. Uncontrolled tax increases can be controlled with super majorities or citizen votes.
        6. Your conviction to support families, maintain freedoms, and promote justice is hard to translate into how you would approach the regressive tax structure that both you and your opponent suggest is an issue.
        7. Based on what you say are your convictions and your acknowledgement of our regressive tax structure, it would be easy to read into your comments that you may vote for a capital gains tax if it supported families, maintained freedoms and promoted justice. Your vote against a capital gains tax may not be against your convictions.

        Brian, I wish you well in this election. I well look at the rest of your campaign information before voting to see how your convictions stack up against mine.

        1. If a capital gains tax is “unconstitutional” based on it being an illegal form of an income tax, wouldn’t a flat income tax be “unconstitutional” based on the same reason? I know I’m missing something here that has been determined to be unconstitutional in the past. Maybe it’s the idea that a capital gains tax would favor and benefit people who do not derive income from capital gains. Please clue me in on this Darroll.

          My problem with your flat tax idea isn’t that it is a bad idea. My problem is that I think the people who would have to pay the most under such a system will never go for it and will strenuously oppose it both nationally and locally. The reason is simple. Why pay anything, when you can continue to pay nothing or next to nothing? Also it is simple math. Five % of a $500,000 income (imaginary local tax) is a lot bigger stack of money than five % of a $50,000 income. Most relatively wealthy people aren’t stupid.

          Like Brian, I believe in convictions, motherhood, hot dogs, apple pie, Chevrolet and all that, but where’s the beef? What’s the plan? Nationally the right has been trying to get rid of Obamacare since it’s inception but they haven’t had a proposal for affordable and available care since Richard Nixon almost agreed with Edward Kennedy on care for all, but Kennedy stupidly shot it down because it wasn’t perfect in his eyes. Locally the right is opposed to an income or capital gains tax but they have no real plans for how to pay for things we all need and want. Brian’s stated views on legislaton support what I’m saying I think. Prove me wrong, Darrol .

    2. Basketball has experienced the same plunge in business. That’s counter intuitive if you consider people are watching more screens during reverse quarantine. Try taking the BLM signs out of your resteraunt windows an see if customers are more inclined.

  1. I asked a business yesterday who was haggling with someone over masks. “You know the governor will likely shut us down this winter. What is your plan for then.” He said, “My plan is to make as much money as I can now before that happens.” I went from being annoyed by the procedures and dehumanization I see to feeling sorry and sad.

    There needs to be something like a Downtown Edmonds Merchant Aliance. We could call it DEMA. We could all refuse to shutdown in solidarity. If I kicked off a meeting would we attend? #WinterIsComing

  2. This is a really good survey with important data. The most critical being the link provided in the article to the full list of answers on businesses about what they need.

    I really hope that everyone on the Edmonds city council reads everyone of those answers, discusses plans to address them, and than reads them all again.

    This is certainly the most important issue they will deal with this year. I have some ideas to help including gesture controlled digital business maps, better city wide digital marketing, capitalizing on the businesses leaving Seattle, and other measures.

    There are certainly steps we could take now to help if we wanted.

  3. Clinton, this tread is about CV but Brian “found” me and wanted to comment so I commented back with some discussion base on facts and our ability to craft laws as we choose. It is impossible to discuss all your points for they go national, local, and food and a bunch of other stuff. I will comment only on the legality of taxes.
    1. A capital gains tax has so far been shot down by the SofW Supreme Court. Through a public records request even a former Supreme Court Judge had advise some progressives in the legislature that it would be unconstitutional.
    2. In the 1930’s the courts said “income can be taxes as property”. This means the same percent would be applied to low income people and higher income people.
    3. State Senators and Reps have told me I was wrong. I spoke to 3 of them at one time. When AG Bob Ferguson spoke in Edmonds at a chamber event, I asked him about this 1930’s decision, he assigned his Chief of Staff to help do the research and the findings was that the question of Income being taxed as Property was reviewed and an opinion rendered by AG Slade Gorton upholding the 1930’s decision and that is still the opinion of the AG’s office. I have had private discussions about this with Bob Ferguson and confirmed what I am saying. While a graduated capital gains tax is unconstitutional, a flat rate income tax (taxed like property is not).
    4. Lower income people pay a greater percentage of their income for taxes than higher income people, regressive. A flat rate tax on income AND reducing Property and Sales at the same time would shift taxes to higher income people. There are more low income voters than high income.

  4. Darrel, my references to national issues are meant as exemplary as to what is lacking in the way of solutions from the Right; not needing or expected to be addressed by either you or Brian. My point is that anyone can attack other people’s ideas of good legislation and bad legislation but so what, if they don’t have any answers themselves?

    If I’m understanding you correctly, as per the decision about progressive income taxes of any sort being unconstitutional from the 1930’s and re-affirmed by Republican A.G. Slade Gorton in the 70’s, we cannot, by constitutional law, have non-regressive income taxation of any kind. My inference would be that the ideology of the Right is that regressive taxation is preferred so we don’t (theoretically) penalize industriousness and income generation. My further inference would be that higher income people want a more regressive system so they can pay less than they would have to pay under any sort of progressive and/or non-regressive system.

    A flat income tax could be construed as either progressive or regressive. It’s progressive under your “AND” proposal but very regressive without it. (Ref. my example 5% pile of cash out of lower and higher income amounts). Higher income people do not want any part of a tax shift to them. I agree that there are more low income people, but I don’t think there are that many more low income voters yet. People of higher age and income have been more inclined to vote than the young and low income people. Of course, that trend is changing and that is scaring the hell out of many on the Right and higher end of the economical/political spectrum.

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