What Are the Effects of Inflation on Small Businesses?

After the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate from 0.25% to 0.5% in January 2022, 85% of small business owners confirmed that global economic trends negatively affected their business. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, inflationary pressure is the foremost concern of small businesses. Effects of inflation forced small companies to modify their inventories due to product shortages and increasing raw materials costs.

Overall, small businesses have reduced purchasing power, forcing them to absorb losses within a bleak profit margin. Surging inflation encouraged more firms to raise prices, decrease staff, and take out loans.

In this article, learn which industries are most affected by inflation and how inflation impacts small businesses.

How does inflation arise?

Inflation is the rate of increase in the value of goods and services. Surging inflation rates mean that the purchasing power of money decreases. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index (CPI) rose by an alarming 7.9% from 2020 to 2021. This is the CPI’s fastest annual increase since June 1982.

The current rising inflation since the COVID-19 pandemic includes the following factors:

  • Worker shortages
  • Produce shortages
  • Rising wages
  • Increase in money supply
  • Fossil fuel price surge
  • Supply chain disruptions

Which industries suffer from the effects of inflation?

Due to rising inflation, small businesses need to stay vigilant about their expenses in light of increasing prices.

The top industries most affected by inflation amidst the pandemic are:

  • Energy
  • Real estate
  • Healthcare
  • Utilities
  • Consumer staples

Perishable goods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and produce)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of grocery items rose 0.5% in December 2021 alone. Food prices increased by 6.3% yearly, the highest annual move since October 2008.

The cost of meat is up 14.8% year-over-year. Meanwhile, the price of eggs increased by 11.1%. This is followed by fats and oils and fish and seafood, with prices rising at 8.8% and 8.4%, respectively.

Surging shipping costs is the primary driver of the increasing prices of perishable goods. Besides the price pressure on crude oil prices, logistics supply constraints also caused the rising cost of perishable goods.

Energy commodities (crude oil, heating oil, natural gas, and gasoline)

Energy costs were the main instigator of rising inflation in 2021; they accounted for 7.3% of the Consumer price index in December. Fuel costs rose 42%, while gasoline prices rose 50%.

On a month-over-month basis, energy commodities are up 3.5% in February 2022. This accounts for a third of the annual increase. Because of rising fuel costs, small businesses spend more to fill their tanks and dispatch vehicles. The price of utilities will also increase due to rising energy costs. Traveling and commutes are also affected, which is why businesses are pushing for remote work opportunities.

Apart from rising gas prices, energy costs, directly and indirectly, affect the price of products, particularly petroleum-based materials.

Supply chain issues caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine will also affect small businesses’ capacity to ship products. Freight services and logistics firms will likely increase their shipping costs and surcharges.

New and used vehicles

According to Jared Berstein, a White House economic adviser, the used car industry has a historically high impact on headline inflation. The Labor Department estimates that the used vehicle industry contributed 0.112 percentage points to the overall 0.5% inflation increase.

Aside from shelter and gas, the used vehicle industry is a significant driver of inflation. Supply chain constraints caused an inflation increase due to used vehicle prices during the coronavirus pandemic. This resulted in limitations to new vehicle production, increasing the inflation rate from 2021 to 2022 to 37.3%.

Effects of inflation on small businesses

The previous section gave you a brief look into how inflation affected various industries across the U.S. Unfortunately, small to medium-sized businesses are the most vulnerable to the effects of inflation.

Raising prices for products

According to Business.org, 89% of small businesses have increased prices since the pandemic.

Due to supply chain constraints and labor shortages in the logistics industry, small businesses face the overwhelming price increase of raw materials. Small businesses need to raise the pricing of their products and services to offset rising costs.

Decreased purchasing power

The direct impact of inflation on businesses is decreased purchasing power. To skimp on expenses, many small businesses choose to modify their inventory.

Instead of keeping multiple stocks on hand, a 2021 Business.org survey showed that 46% of small businesses planned to reduce their inventory for 2022. Small companies will choose to save costs by maintaining a minimum stock.

Narrow profit margin

While small businesses increase the prices of their products, profit margins continue to narrow as companies absorb higher costs.

Small businesses need to accurately account for their expenses to reduce the impact of narrower profit margins when determining the proper pricing. Small businesses often fail to consider hidden costs such as employee benefits, taxes, and loan interest payments.

Expensive shipping costs

Undoubtedly, the pandemic worsened supply chain constraints and logistics and shipping industry labor shortages. This caused the rate of freight services to increase astronomically, to the dismay of small businesses and consumers.

With increased inflation, shipping costs will continue to rise, primarily due to rising energy costs for four-wheel vehicles, air travel, and utilities.

Offset the effects of inflation with GoShip

As mentioned, small businesses can suffer considerably from the effects of inflation. You can only do so much as a business owner by increasing their pricing and reducing inventories. Partnering with a reliable shipping provider is the most cost-effective way to move freight and will significantly improve overall savings.

GoShip is an online freight marketplace that helps shippers find budget-friendly shipping options in their area. Input your shipping details in the 24/7 online calculator, and you’ll get a list of reliable and affordable LTL and FLT services.


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