For the Philadelphia portion of the Pope’s upcoming visit to America there has been a huge discussion of the logistics and transportation changes for the region. What I would like to discuss here primarily are the potential positive or negative affect on business overall, especially for small businesses in the region.
My hope is that this will be the potential $500 million financial boon to the region as predicted. The expectation is for 1.5 million people as well as potential good publicity for the city (although that is never guaranteed). Even if it is as successful as predicted will this success be felt by many small businesses or will it just create more hassles and headaches for Entrepreneurs without the associated rewards?
“Traffic restrictions imposed by the U.S. Secret Service and limited public transit have left some stores and restaurants in the lurch. Planned road closures include about 25 miles of highway, a major bridge connecting Philadelphia to New Jersey, and dozens of blocks in the heart of downtown. … Nowhere was the angst more apparent than at Reading Terminal Market, a city landmark and tourist hot spot filled with dozens of stalls selling prepared food, groceries and souvenirs. It had considered closing until officials were able to negotiate two overnight windows for deliveries.” http://www.dailyrecord.com/story/money/business/2015/09/06/openinphl-philly-businesses-prepare-pope-francis-visit-crowds/71829088/
“Both city officials and business owners have expressed concerns: restaurants fear the logistics of moving food and staff in and out of the city, and the city fears restaurants will decide to just close for the visit.” From Recap: Nutter talks business impact of papal visit Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/real-time/Live-Nutter-talks-business-impact-of-Papal-visit.html#k6msLGMDcUoXKqOY.99
There is about a 3 mile traffic box where traffic will be allowed out but traffic will not be allowed starting early in the weekend. If you are a business inside the traffic box there will be challenges in staffing and resupply. For small business outside the traffic box will people be willing to venture outside of this box to go to the business? While it is great that accommodations have been made for a landmark such as Reading Terminal Market, what happens to other small businesses that do not have access to re-supply or don’t have a place for employees who live outside the traffic box to stay or to get back in to work? Will small business be literally and figuratively ‘running on empty’ by the end of the weekend?
There are also rumors that the cell/wi-fi coverage may be pushed past the limit. While the wireless companies have spent a lot upgrading the infrastructure locally for the event, what happens to the small business or Entrepreneur that relies on their ‘Square’ or other wireless based payment processing if there is too much stress on the system?
Personally I live just outside the city limits but a friend who has lived in the city a long time made an excellent point recently. Since many things will be different the weekend the Pope (transportation, hours of operation, overworked staff at the places that are open and have employees that can’t leave and come back ‘in the box’) the local residents that do stay may not have valid info to share with the visitors.
One solution seems to be social media (assuming cell phones are working):
#OpenInPHL: Philly businesses prepare for Pope Francis visit, crowds
To encourage shops to navigate the hurdles and stay open for the historic occasion, the city this week launched the hashtag #OpenInPHL. Officials also began distributing marketing kits with buttons and signs saying “Welcome Pope Francis” and “I’ll Be There.” http://www.dailyrecord.com/story/money/business/2015/09/06/openinphl-philly-businesses-prepare-pope-francis-visit-crowds/71829088/
This could be good for the small businesses and entrepreneurs that want to let people know they are open (and in walking distance). Now more than ever the need for social media is critical to small business success to make sure the throngs of potential customers know you are open and ready to serve them. (Also make sure your signage is in place or you have someone out on the street pulling people into your establishment.)
If you are a small business owner in Philly and are you expecting a large increase in sales? What preparations have you made to overcome the potential obstacles?