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2020-08-13 — bloomberg.com

This wave of silent failures goes uncounted in part because real-time data on small business is notoriously scarce, and because owners of small firms often have no debt, and thus no need for bankruptcy court.

... Yelp Inc., the online reviewer, has data showing more than 80,000 permanently shuttered from March 1 to July 25. About 60,000 were local businesses, or firms with fewer than five locations. About 800 small businesses did indeed file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy from mid-February to July 31, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, and the trade group expects the 2020 total could be up 36% from last year.

...

Chapter 11 bankruptcy gives a business protection from its creditors while the owners work out a turnaround plan. For smaller companies, though, the extra time might not make any difference. "Bankruptcy cannot create more revenue," said Robert Keach, a restructuring partner at New England-based Bernstein Shur and former president at the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Some owners fear bankruptcy could scar their credit reports and hurt their future chances to rebuild. Bankrupt businesses have a nearly 24 percentage point higher likelihood of being denied a loan, according to the SBA, and a filing can show up on a credit report for 10 years.

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To be sure, small business attrition is high even in normal times. Only about half of all establishments survive for at least five years, according to the SBA. But the swiftness of the pandemic and the huge drop in economic activity is hitting hard among typically upbeat entrepreneurs. About 58% of small business owners say they're worried about permanently closing, according to a July U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey.

In a June 2020 NFIB survey, a net 31% of owners reported lower sales in the past three months, while 7% reported higher sales a year earlier. In the same survey, only 13% of business owners said it was a good time to expand, a dip from 24% a year earlier.

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