By Ray Allegrezza, executive director, International Home Furnishings Representatives Assn.

While COVID-19 and its newly mutated cousins have been equal-opportunity disrupters, I can’t help but feel the pandemic has created a very unlevel new playing field, particularly for small retailers.

And if a recent study conducted by CBIZ Main Street Index is correct, and I believe it is, I am not the only one who thinks so.

CBIZ Inc., a leading provider of financial, insurance and advisory services, polled more than 1,600 U.S. businesses within more than 30 industries, found that while the majority (84%) saw an impact from the pandemic and the subsequent economic slowdown, 43% of small businesses — those with one to four employees — were hardest hit by the pandemic.

While some suppliers consider small business as small potatoes, the statistics would suggest otherwise. Government BC (Before COVID-19) statistics cite 27 million small businesses and say those businesses account for 50% of our GDP.

But since the pandemic, businesses of all size have been dropping like flies. A study by Yelp concluded that some 163,735 businesses that had been open last April closed in September due to the pandemic.