Businesses Fared Better Than Expected Over Pandemic Summer, Economic Impact Study Shows

NANTUCKET, Massachusetts--While some local businesses experienced heavy financial losses and significant operational business shifts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses overall fared better than expected this summer, according to the findings of a recent regional survey released today by ReMain Nantucket.

The Island Economic Impact Study of COVID-19 Crisis, which was completed by nearly a fourth of island businesses, also found that widespread closures are not expected in the off-season.

The study was the second in a series of studies on the short-term impact of the coronavirus on local businesses and organizations. Conducted in September, the study drew 238 responses from businesses representing the largest sectors of the island’s economy: retail, construction/trades, culture/arts/entertainment, food service, healthcare/human services, and lodging. The survey was commissioned by the Nantucket Economic Survey Team (NEST) and conducted by Boston-based EBP US.

The median revenue reported lost between April and September was $150,000. Collectively, organizations responding to the survey had revenue losses of over $75 million. The hardest hit sectors were lodging and culture/arts/entertainment with more than 90 percent reporting losses. In general, the majority of the respondents reported losses between 25 and 50 percent. In the April survey, 89 percent of respondents expected to lose at least 25 percent of their revenue by June.

“This study suggests that businesses were able to reduce the impact of COVID-19 closures and restrictions by being nimble and innovative,” said Cecil Barron Jensen, executive director of ReMain Nantucket. “By making difficult decisions early on, many businesses were able to mitigate the impacts.

“We saw some examples of innovation, such as altering opening and closing dates and hours of operation and investing in remote or online capabilities,” said Jensen. “Other anticipated impacts, including rent and mortgage payments, staff layoffs, debt management, and problems obtaining inventory, also appear to be less than anticipated in the April survey.”

Hardest hit this summer was the non-profit sector, with 86 percent of organizations canceling events and programs. The nonprofits also reported a 45 percent decline in philanthropic giving, with only 11 percent reporting an increase in support.

“Most of our local nonprofits, especially in the areas of education, child care, and arts and culture, experienced significant losses due to COVID-19,” said Margaretta Andrews, executive director of the Community Foundation for Nantucket. “Most were wonderfully creative with their summer fundraising events, which helped offset a portion of revenue losses due to program closures. All nonprofits will rely on philanthropy more this year than ever before, and the generosity of donors has already made a difference. Our hope is that individual giving will increase even more toward the end of the year to help make these vital organizations as whole as possible going into 2021.”

These findings will be used to create educational and professional development programs for businesses and organizations on Nantucket to help them continue to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic.

“It will be important for the Town and the Chamber to keep in touch with members from different economic sectors as we move through the shoulder and off-seasons,” said Janet Schulte, director of the Department of Culture and Tourism. “The constantly evolving situation economically, politically, and in terms of public health – means we must regularly monitor what is working and what is challenging for the island’s organizations.”

By providing on-going data, town leaders will be able to make better decisions in the coming months to support Nantucket businesses, organizations and self-employed individuals. ReMain Nantucket, in partnership with NEST, will continue to commission studies into 2021.

Read the complete survey findings here. For both for spring and summer 2020 survey results, visit the Town of Nantucket’s Economic Recovery Task Force page under “Important Information” or the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce website.

ReMain Nantucket is a charitable organization, founded by philanthropist Wendy Schmidt to support the economic, social and environmental vitality of the island of Nantucket. In addition to providing grants and sponsorships to support sustainable and cultural initiatives across the island, the organization has worked to revitalize the downtown district year-round through the preservation of historic buildings that are home to a mix of nonprofit and commercial businesses.

The Community Foundation for Nantucket's mission is to strengthen Nantucket now and for future generations through informed philanthropy and community leadership. In pursuit of this mission, we act as a steward of charitable funds, grantmaker to respond to pressing needs, charitable resources by maintaining in-depth knowledge of the nonprofit sector, and catalyst by mobilizing community leadership to affect collaborative solutions for Nantucket’s most critical issues.

The Town of Nantucket’s Department of Culture and Tourism’s mission is to support the continued development of Nantucket as a healthy community in which tourism is a significant contributor to residents' economic stability and economic security and Nantucket's natural, cultural, and historic resources and quality of life are enjoyed by tourists and residents while being protected for future generations.

For more information about the survey findings, please visit or call Virna Gonzalez at 508-901-4143.