It’s not uncommon to see the typical “Year in Review” takes as December enters its final week, but 2020 has been anything but. Nevertheless, industries across the broad spectrum of commerce and business are trying to make sense of this year—and franchising is no different. Tallied amidst the backdrop of a once in a hundred-year pandemic, here’s how the franchising industry fared.

The Advent of COVID

The U.S. had two blissful months of operation under normalcy. By March, it was clear that whatever the Coronavirus was, it would not be limited to a regional outbreak in China. As the initial—and inevitable—cases finally met the U.S. shores, it became clear that some form of drastic measures would be necessary to combat the spread of infection. In the end, it would touch every aspect of our lives.

Essential vs. Non-essential

As lockdowns and shelter-in-place mandates began, the approach differed state to state, however one commonality was businesses being split into essential and non-essential categories. Franchises in the restaurant, travel, gym and salon concepts—heavily represented in our industry, were hit hard. On the flip-side, there were surprising increases and gains for franchises in the signage and home services/improvement categories.

Responsiveness

Though dwarfed by the federal government’s response in the form of the $5 billion CARES Act, franchisors swung into action on a more granular level. Financial aid, royalty waivers, remote working upgrades and business model adaptations became a lifeline for franchisees in desperate straits. It’s a credit to their willingness to suspend business as usual, providing an empathetic helping hand when it was needed the most. The franchising industry proved that being in business for yourself, but not by yourself, wasn’t just a cliché. And franchisees noticed.

Reason for Hope

With the advent of not one—but two—promising vaccines, each with a 90-95% effectiveness rate, has given the franchising industry a reason to have hope for 2021. Behind us, there is economic devastation with hundreds of thousands of businesses shuttered in the wake of COVID. However, smart-minded entrepreneurs also see a wide swath of opportunity. Remember, the demand and consumption for products and services never waned, only our ability to access them safely. Once a majority of the population is inoculated, it’s certain that the U.S., as well as the global economy, will come roaring back to life.

Months, years and decades from now, the year 2020 will be studied closely. It will offer us a glimpse into how business and commerce responded to the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression—which also occurred in conjunction with the last pandemic to affect the global population. We emerge from the Year of COVID damaged and down, but certainly not out.

No matter what the future brings, it’s hard to imagine a more devastating scenario than what we’ve faced in the past 10 months. And the franchising industry is ready, waiting and prepared to make 2021 a year of recovery and new opportunity. We hope you’ll join us.

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“Thriving through Covid” is FranNet’s new series of inspirational articles featuring positive news, business owner profiles, success stories, and educational updates—all of which demonstrate the resilience of the franchising industry. We want you to know that even during this uncertain time, franchising can offer you an alternative path forward—and a new opportunity to achieve success through business ownership.

Check back with FranNet twice weekly for new articles and let us know when you’d like to begin an entrepreneurial journey of your own!