The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on Black small business owners. An analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the number of active Black business owners in the U.S. dropped by 41% from February to April 2020.
That figure is nearly double the national average of 22%.
By comparison, the number of Asian small business owners dropped by 26% and Latino by 32%.
While those numbers are surely devastating, there is a ray of hope in a recent study published by Yelp. From May 25 to July 10, 2020 there was a historic surge in interest Black-owned businesses on the site.
During that period there were over 2.5 million searches for Black-owned business, compared to just 35,000 during a similar period in 2019.
"In general, most of the spikes we see are tied to holidays and events," Justin Norman, Yelp's vice president of data science, told Business Insider. "We haven't seen a previous movement-based spike to date and we're thrilled and inspired by the continued support and increase in searches for Black-owned businesses."
The surge of interest in Black-owned businesses is most likely related to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd. During that period, people also celebrated Juneteenth and "Blackout Day" on July 7.
"In general, most of the spikes we see are tied to holidays and events," Norman said. "We haven't seen a previous movement-based spike to date and we're thrilled and inspired by the continued support and increase in searches for Black-owned businesses."
According to the report, Yelp users were particularly interested in searching for Black-owned bookstores and restaurants. Bookstores saw a 1,437% increase and restaurants a 2,508% increase over 2019.
Officials at Yelp believe this recent change in consumer behavior may be part of a long-term trend of supporting the Black community through business.
"We do expect to see continued elevated interest in Black-owned businesses," Norman said. "There has been sustained interest in Black-owned businesses since the initial peak at the end of May and beginning of June, and this interest is diversifying past the initial generic searches for Black-owned businesses and restaurants into a wider range of business types."
"To me, this signals a shift in consumer behavior and habit that I expect will continue."
The death of George Floyd inspired countless people across America to lift their voices in support of creating a society that treats people of color equally. Much of that has been centered at creating government policy that increases opportunity and reduces police brutality.
But as we know far too well, political change around civil rights has always been slow.
That's why it's wonderful to see that Americans everywhere are taking direct action and helping Black business owners in this time of economic and social strife. One of the most effective ways to help traditionally-undeserved communities is by supporting their businesses. Let's hope the Yelp study is an indicator that Americans are aligning their spending habits with their hearts.
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