“America’s store front shops and small business are what makes America great, and we have to make sure those business owners can win more than they are winning today. We are the only campaign in the race that understands business owners, and the only one that is going to make America’s Main Street great again.”
· Donald Trump’s campaign
Since 2016 began, PYMNTS.com has been on the road talking to businesses — 253 to be exact — as we followed the various campaigns as they rolled into the first dozen or so primary contests.
We also tried to talk to those campaigns as they were rolling along about the state of the store front business in the U.S. — how they’re doing, what they’re worried about and what they can expect.
We didn’t have a ton of success in getting the candidates’ attention. Most campaigns ignored us, one solicited a donation, another politely brushed us off, while yet another was less polite.
One campaign, however, did respond. Team Trump had a response to our latest index on store front business vitality — one that seems to recognize that some store front businesses in some states, most notably those that are early to vote this primary season, aren’t doing all that well and that many of these store front business owners are worried.
And today, nationwide, those business owners will be among the 13 million expected to head to the polls.
To put that in perspective, the number of votes cast today will be about equal to the combined popular vote tallies for every presidential election held from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln. If voter turnout predictions hold, about as many people will vote on Super Tuesday as voted in the nation’s first 21 presidential elections.
It’s been said that all politics are local, and primary voting, which will take place among more than a dozen states and locales within those states, is about as local as it gets.
Each state has its own economy, its own industry and its own history of impact from internal and external forces, especially economic ones. And those are just the issues we track and use to inform our Store Front Business Index.
The SFI presents data across real store front creation (physical locations), wages and job growth (in terms of positions added). And what we’ve seen so far is that though there’s growth overall — in fact, outpacing GDP — it’s a real mixed bag, as Small Town U.S.A. and the store fronts that define it pull out of the economic crisis that has defined our economy for the last eight years.
Of course, pockets of underperformance and pockets of outperformance are par for the course in a growing economy. The key is to try to place the numbers in context and to see how they match up against the bigger pictures. This is possible with the segmentation we have made available through the Store Front Business Index, which has us looking more granularly at, say, wage growth or actual employment growth, which translates into jobs created.
These numbers can help inform what might happen in, say, Texas, which has shown good outperformance and where people may be feeling relatively flush, versus New Hampshire, South Carolina and Massachusetts, which have lagged and where there may be an undercurrent of dissatisfaction as people head to primary voting.
Past is not prologue, but it does give some hint as to human emotion headed into an election year, as people tend to vote with their wallets.
And to make sure our numbers match up with the experience on the ground, we had our own team talk to local business owners to get their real-time reactions to the economy, the business environment, the election and what they think is coming next to the Main Streets near them.
Some were cheerful, and others were trepidatious. But all agreed they had never seen an election quite like this one. Furthermore, most mentioned money as a primary concern, though how that concern was spelled out varied from location to location.
So, ready to get on the road with PYMNTS, CAN Capital and the store front businesses that are driving the U.S. economy while voters everywhere are driving to the polls?
Those businesses are thinking local, are worried about expansion, are unsure how to navigate changing demographics and are constantly under pressure when it comes to cash flow, pretty much no matter where you go. They’re concerned that they are invisible to politicians, and many expressed a desire to have a candidate who speaks to their issues.
Might be time to take that closer local look? You might be surprised by what we found.