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DHL survey says COVID fades as international concern for US SMBs

Only 12% of respondents said pandemic is biggest issue for rest of 2022, survey finds

DHL survey said SMBs focused on supply chain disruptions, less on Covid (Photo: DHL)

COVID-19 has faded in importance for much of the nation. That also seems to go for a good-sized number of U.S.-based small to midsize businesses.

A survey of more than 4,000 of those businesses, commonly known by the acronym SMB, found that only 12% consider the pandemic to be their biggest business challenge for the rest of 2022. That was compared with 29% polled at the same time in 2021.

About 61% of respondents in the current survey said that supply chain delays would be their biggest challenge for the balance of the year. That was followed by labor shortages at 19%.

The survey, made public last Thursday, was conducted by DHL Express, the international air express unit of Deutsche Post DHL (OTCUS: DPSGY). The respondents were businesses that ship internationally or are strongly considering it. About one-third of the respondents currently use DHL’s services in one form or another.

Of the 61% of respondents citing supply chain delays as their biggest challenge — which was up from 54% in 2021 — rising costs were the biggest concern. That was followed by issues with product availability and then customs compliance difficulties.

Due to these concerns, 65% of respondents said they have begun planning for peak shipping season earlier than normal. About one-third of those respondents said they were planning for peak season one to three months ahead of what their schedules would be in years without disruptions. About 23% said they were planning four to seven months ahead of their normal schedules.

About 38% of respondents said they don’t expect their operations to be challenged by the tight labor market, compared with 50% in 2021. Those pinched by the lack of available labor are trying to remedy the problem with better perks and bonuses. A smaller subgroup was investing in robotics, while others were shifting to e-commerce and away from a brick-and-mortar presence.

About one-quarter of respondents said that rising inflation has resulted in a reduction of international sales. About 58% were either not affected by the issue or their international sales prospects remained unchanged.

About 42% said they would never accept digital currencies as a form of payment. About 24% said they started to do so this year or plan to do so by year’s end. About 23% said digital currency acceptance would happen in the next two to five years, while 11% said they already accept some form of digital currency.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.