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5/29/2009
07:35 PM
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Business Owners Need A Holiday

With every dime precious, taking time off from work, much less an actual vacation, might seem to be an unthinkable luxury, but it turns out that small business owners are planning vacations this summer at about the same rate as last year.

With every dime precious, taking time off from work, much less an actual vacation, might seem to be an unthinkable luxury, but it turns out that small business owners are planning vacations this summer at about the same rate as last year.Among other things, the Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of summer. Last weekend, as did many others, I enjoyed some time outdoors with the family. And when I was out and about, I saw very few "closed for the holiday" signs. With the economic outlook being what it is who can afford to close up shop and miss a chance at revenue?

It turns out that my random sampling of businesses in Portland is exactly that -- random, not to mention statistically insignificant. A few more business I encountered may have been open for business on this national holiday than in the past, but that doesn't mean that business owners don't need a break from the grind -- and it's been quite a grind this year. According to the findings of the Small Business Monitor, a semi-annual survey of business owners conducted by American Express OPEN, the majority of small business owners still plan to take a summer vacation this year. Moreover, the rate is not significantly different than it was last summer. Last year, 59% planned a summer vacation of at least one week; this year it's 56%. Admittedly, that's down slightly, but hardly commensurate with the decline in revenues that many businesses face. And speaking to how trying the road has been of late, fewer business owners feel guilty about taking time off compared to last year (down to 22% from 28% last year).

But lest we gain the impression that there's an impending run on resort wear, the business owners taking vacations acknowledge scaling back spending significantly (32% cite a reduction from previous vacation spending levels, although 28% say their vacation plans are unchanged by the economy). As to those who don't plan to take a vacation, 4 out 10 said they just simply couldn't afford to spend the money in this economy and 27% said they had too much work to do for a vacation.

And as for the anecdotal evidence, here's the marker I'm looking too; there's a family-owned Sushi spot near my home that literally has a line around the corner every time I pass by. The last four summers (maybe longer, that's when I started watching), the restaurant has closed up for two weeks while the family went on vacation. It's hardly an economic bellwether, but I'm sure curious to see if they do the same this summer.

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