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May 5, 2021

New Kabbage Survey Shows 85% of Small Businesses Are Fully Open as Restrictions Continue to Lift

Small businesses report the increase of in-person transactions more than doubled last month as vaccinations become more accessible

Kabbage, an American Express Company, issued the second installment of its Small Business Recovery Report tracking U.S. small business recovery and growth through 2022. Polling more than 550 small business leaders, the latest version of the report illustrates how small businesses are closer to reaching pre-pandemic levels of operation.

The survey includes the smallest small businesses with fewer than 20 employees (53% of respondents), medium-sized small businesses with 21 to 100 employees (29%) and the largest small businesses with 101 to 500 employees (18%). The results show a spike of small businesses reporting they’re fully open, and a higher increase of in-person sales as vaccination availability expands.  

“Now Open” Rates Climb

The survey shows 85% of small businesses reported they were fully open for business in March 2021, an impressive 51% increase since the first Small Busines Recovery Report which covered February 2021. Of those 85%, respondents detailed their business type throughout the pandemic:

  • 32% have a physical location which is now back to full operations.
  • 16% have an online store as well as a physical location, which is fully open.
  • 15% shifted their company online due to the crisis and are open as a result.
    • One in five of all medium-sized businesses made this change.
  • 22% were always online and therefore never impacted.
    • The smallest small businesses had the highest response (27%).

Of the remaining 15% of respondents still closed or under restrictions, the smallest small businesses had the highest response (22%) while the largest small businesses had the lowest (3%).

“It’s heartening to see the pressures on small businesses are slowly easing as consumer confidence heightens and sales continue to restore, but the smallest of businesses still need our support,” said Rob Frohwein, co-founder of Kabbage, an American Express Company. “These companies have carried the brunt of the economic crisis and we can only claim recovery when they can too.”

Shopping Small, Safe and In-person

Small businesses reported the increase of in-person transactions reached an average of 15% between February and March 2021, more than double the volume recorded between January and February 2021 (7%). This was led by medium and large small businesses who recorded a 24% and 29% increase of in-person transactions, respectively. The smallest small businesses saw only a 5% lift. 

Further, 41% of respondents stated they received a COVID-19 vaccination, which is a 241% increase since the first Small Business Recovery Report (12%). Across all respondents, 70% agreed that making vaccinations available to all U.S. adults is essential to their business recovery, which the data shows a correlation.

The volume of in-person transactions among businesses whose respondents received a vaccination increased 18% compared to those who did not.

Making Recovery a Reality

In the first Small Business Recovery Report, we asked respondents which milestones would best indicate their company has recovered from the pandemic. The top responses were when they could pay their employees’ full wages without concern and when customer demand meets or exceeds pre-pandemic levels.

In this report, we asked small businesses how many have successfully reached these milestones. Nearly two-thirds of all small businesses (64%) stated they’re now paying their employees’ full wages without concern, and more than half (51%) reported customer demand and new inbound business has restored to levels prior to the crisis.


The online survey was conducted between March 12-29, 2021, surveying 550 small business leaders, including 290 at the smallest small business (<20 employees), 160 at a medium-sized small business (21-100 employees), and 100 at the largest small business (101-500 employees). Respondents represented industries across retail, marketing, healthcare, financial services, technology, food and beverage, construction, automotive, manufacturing, media, professional services, education, agriculture and more. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 4 percentage points.

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