Monday, November 16, 2009

Merchant Confidence Index (MCI) Survey Results - Q4 2009

Below are the results for our first Merchant Confidence Index (MCI) survey - designed to track trends in small business sentiment and habits over time. This survey was fielded online between October 29 - November 4 using MerchantCircle's member base. 12,190 total responses came in during this period and there were no incentives offered to complete the 16 question survey.

Read the press release here.


If you'd like a downloadable PDF version of the above slides - click here. We can also get you regional breakdowns on specific states and/or categories. Requests can be emailed at

Community Relations


  1. This is Very interesting , thank you for putting this survey together !

  2. These results are not suprising at all! Our economy and the world's has tanked in the past year and the only way to go now is up. But when will we go up? Reason, logic and future economic outlook lead to believe that micro, small & medium sized businesses will rebounce only after large corporations stabilize.
    Why is our economy so reliant on the firms that employ only 5% of the population and not on the small and medium sized business who employ 95%? Maybe the Obama administration needs to reconsider their priorities; help the poor or help everybody? I say everybody!

  3. Thanks for letting us share with other business people. Their insights
    are important to us!
    It is helpful to see what other small business owners are doing to survive.
    "Hank the Bug Guy"

  4. First, thank you Merchant Circle for putting this survey together. I have to say that despite the fact that Obama is brilliant and charming, he does not hold my view of America. Every decision he makes and every word of his mouth spews of marxist rhetoric and his administration officials (CZARS) are utterly anti-capitalists. LOOK 'EM UP! I'm sure he's a good guy and a good Father, but he is not a good business man and I don't think him "Fundamentally transforming the United States of America" is in our best interest as small business owners. You have a sign? Show me where it's gettin' better man. It may turn around, but you can't print a TRILLION dollars and get away with it!

  5. Hi, I own a small carpet cleaning business called RC Carpet Care. We have been in business for over 8 years now and this year has been terrible for us. We had 15 guys and 3 girls in the office this time last year. Plus all of our efforts advertising, rent, and typical overhead. Now with the economy the way it i can't fill my book for one van! I have four ready to go. I'm just trying to do anything to stick in there. I lowered my prices down to $15-$26 a room, any lower and it simply wouldn't be worth doing. I do news paper, door hangers, sighs, internet ads, merchant circle, direct mail, and i tried a radio ad. NOTHING is working this year, almost lost all of my commercial business over the last few months. What can I do to turn things around?? Already known for excellent work, clean powerful trucks, and great teams. A few more months of this and I'm down sizing or taking a break for a while. Any good Ideas will be very appreciated.
    -Shane (RC Carpet Care_

  6. Thanks for the survey results, it shows the clear picture to everbody. Hope U.S.Govt. and the adminstrators will think of better efforts for fast recovery.

  7. We thanks Merchant circle for doing the survey and let everybody understand and request there efforts to improve the global economy.


    Nagendra singh Naruka
    Dharti Crafts

  8. On the economy I have to agree wiht Max and Josh. Obama is heading in the wrong direction. Too much Government control kills the whole idea of Capitalism. As for the survey...very interesting results. Great job putting this together!

  9. I am glad that someone is putting this survey together ... & its good to see that we are not the only ones hurting .... The president needs to get off his butt & help small & medium business's to get us jump started again.

  10. I want to know what are the companies that fall in the 2.8% catagory of My Buisness will signifigantly IMPROVE or IS IMPROVING now and in the future????
    please get back to me......

  11. Glad I'm not alone in this big mess!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. I think the worst is certainly behind us as long as we can get the government to stand by our side and not in our way. I'm not looking for the government to give me anything, just quit taking so much!

  13. Thank you for sharing the results of this survey. One very important thing that all small businesses should do is to continue advertising! Do NOT cut that part of your budget if at all possible, its one of the biggest mistakes a business could make.

  14. If you voted for Obama you were either foolish or insane. If you still support him, you are insane.
    To have an administration filled corrupt, anti-business socialists is not a recipe for economic recovery.

  15. thank you for sharing the results! wonderful to see the hope that it here : )

  16. Hope and Change?? This is a good survey of where we are right now, and I am wondering where the "hope" is and how "changes" are anything other than for the worse... We, as small business owners need to hang in there and stick with "free" advertising like MerchantCircle, and hopefully, we shall survive. Thank you MerchantCircle for a clear and concise picture!

  17. You may call me insane all day, it will not make me slander my President or my country. Let's all have opinions, but let's also refrain from nastiness, hm? Also, thank you, MC, for the survey.

  18. I knew the country was in trouble a year before the goverment admitted it. Now they tell us the worst is over..........I say probably not, had the goverment not extended unemployment for additional months, then retailers would had a wave of new bankruptcies as well as the people who were barely getting along now, triggering a new wave of economic upheaval(after all we are a consumer driven economy.) As our spending slows, countries that are loaning us money (we are the largest debtor in the world now) will have less money to loan.........Will America's credit be shut off?? We just cannot keep printing $100.00 bills forever. The extension of benefits are all well and good............but what happens after that?? The next 6 months are extremely critical.

  19. homespun Cottage antiques & collectiblesNovember 18, 2009 at 9:00 AM

    As I figured myself, The economy has just about driven my store into the ground. All anyone wants is for us to but their items at above retail but expect us to sell everything to them at a loss.

  20. Thanks for the survey, I'm glad I my opinion was included in the results. As for the present administration I think that the economy issue would have been difficult for any administration, this administration just walked into a messy situation. I do agree that there has been nothing done to help small or medium business. Sadly for me I have had to file bankruptcy but I will be able to continue in my buisness if I choose to. I own a retail store for over 14 years and I have lost about 70% of my usual sales. However I am going to try to hang in there if things don't improve within the next year I will retire and do something else.

  21. Stewie, You sir are a scholar and a gentlman and perhaps one who can clearly understand that people are framing the current state of the economy as a problem solely created by President Obama to support their own opinions. WE did not arrive here overnight. The capitalist system WE operate under is still in place. GREED lead us to where we are now not President Obama. The last 30 years of not addressing corporate raiding of coiffers and sending jobs & purchasing overseas lead us to where we are now, not President Obama. It takes a group effort, not just one President but the entire congress and senate, to dismantle the capitalist system and that is not going to happen. President Obama is all for people getting rich but not by the means which have been employed in recent times. Small businesses will succeed as the country begins to recover but the rhetoric wailed against President Obama needs to be tempered so that people with viable business plans will have the confidence to proceed. Small businesses have started and failed UNDER EVERY SINGLE PRESIDENT in history so it's purely fodder to accuse President Obama of causing small business to struggle. A prudent plan, a product or service that fills a need and people willing to utilize that product or service will lead to success of that business. Is it easy? NO. Is it President Obama's fault? NO. Will times change? YES. Does anybody know the day or hour times will get better? NO. History does however give us clues as to how we can help: conversations need to be positive, optimistic; businesses need to be responsive and at times recreate themselves to serve a new need or create and new product; government needs to be reachable and responsive; people need to be loyal to the country; greed and the systemic bleeding of the capitalist system needs to be slowed; as those things happen the country will rebound just as during the Reaganomics rebuilding after Jimmy Carter left office. The system works when WE all pull together with one voice, one purpose, one mission as one country and OUR President is only our Leader not the villian.

  22. It's great to see how other small businesses are doing and it seems most of us are in the same boat. I hope these statistics are shared with the Obama administration. Small business owners really need some kind of help. Whether it's tax cuts or incentives to hire, something.

  23. Thank you MerchantCircle for the survey. I will say that government intervention has never worked in the past. Nor will it work in todays market. It has always led to additonal costs and tremendous waste.
    As a small business owner, like everyone associated with Mechantcircle, we can make a difference in this economy. If the attitude is doom and gloom that is exactly what we will recieve. When someone asked " how's your business doing"? Beply " better than 2008 and it looks like 2010 will be even better!! THINK POSITIVE!!! It will rub off!!

  24. I've thankfully seen an increase in sales the last several months primarily to high end retailers and designers. It appears to me that the perceptions of those with deep pockets is that the worse is behind us. They are beginning to invest in projects be it commercial or residential. Those with the means have a great opportunity to invest and snatch up bargains.
    Don't count on the government to bail you out. Everything is status quo in Washington. Be creative, network, trade services and do your best to keep a positive outlook. Better times are coming.

  25. Sad to say, nothing in this survey surprised me. Just about where I expected things to fall. I am in the construction industry and, all politics aside (and believe me, that was a hard phrase to write), there has been absolutely nothing positive from the government to help us out in any way over the last 2 years. People are scared and have their money parked. I'm sure this winter will be tough. Run this survey again in June and see where we are. Should be interesting...

  26. The fundamental nature of the economic system is based on debt and insider manipulation through boom (bubble) and bust cycles. We haven't had true capitalism, just elite manipulated monopoly capitalism-socialism hybrid systems. The only genuine solution is for the system to be replaced with real free markets and freedom to use any barter or monetary system people desire. The current economy is dependent on debt and corrupt financial investment instruments and there is an insider war for control of the global order. Read the book The End of Money by T. Greco. Obama is a pawn - he has been giving money to corrupt banks and the war machine and wants to force people and companies to pay even more to health insurance giants now. He's a talented hypnotist and con-man but doesn't represent the ordinary citizen's interests - most politicians sell out to the system they have joined and betray the interests of those who voted for them. Regardless, it's up to each of us to build the country and the REAL economy of valuable goods and services. Let's focus our attention on that and what we have to offer one another.

  27. Thanks, MC, for the survey, it is a big help to know the pulse of of the nation's small businesses.
    We are in the pool and spa service business, and actually, the recession may be helping, somewhat, as people spend more time at home. We are actually up significantly from last year, for a number of reasons -
    When times are tough, it is a chance for the really small company to advance, as the big boys stay the same, and the middles tend to cut back. We nearly doubled our ad budget for the upcoming year. Not right for everyone, though.
    The most important thing is to remember that doom is a self-fulfilling prophecy! Always speak with a positive attitude, and encourage others - Along with yourself. I also have to give props to Merchant Circle, my membership has been a real benifit!
    Blessings to all!
    Chet - A-Pro Services

  28. Some excellent comments, and some really ignorant ones. As someone stated, we did not arrive here overnight. Obama is not ruining our economy, he is doing his best to save it. Remember: Bush started the bailout, not Obama. Obama added to it and with stipulations attached to the money given to corporations to protect taxpayers, unlike the first go-around. I can already see that Obama's plan is to do as Clinton did, turning things back for the second year+. Remember Clinton? Gave us the balanced budget amendment in his second year, after 12 years of Republican deficit spending. Then Clinton did something truly extraordinary: he gave us 7 years of budget SURPLUSSES. The first thing Bush did when he got into office was to repeal the balanced budget amendment. During Bush's first term there was more deficit spending than every other president in history, adjusted for inflation, COMBINED. He doubled it in his second term! And Republicans have got just about everyone believing that they are the 'Fiscally Conservative' party... not even close.

    I think that people forget often that we are not a truly capitalist society. Complete capitalism or, for that matter, complete socialism would spontaneously turn into anarchy. The roads you drive on, police, fire, etc. are derived from socialism. Workmans Comp, Medicare: the ideas come from socialism. Our system is a mix of socialism and capitalism, and it is the only way that it will ever be successful. In tough times like these, socialist ideas help pull us through. But so does capitalism: For example, history always shows that small businesses lead the big ones out of recessions. Every time. My small business is having its best year in its 13 year history because it is small enough to adapt and survive.

  29. Obama is smart enough to realize that we have to work together in order to be successful, and Republicans are smart enough to realize it too. That is why Republicans try to block every Obama initiative, including ideas that they themselves have previously spoken of in favor. As of late Republicans in Congress have not appeared to be concerned with making America greater; they only seem to be concerned with grabbing more power for themselves and their party. They are true capitalists, to say the least. Unfortunately, that mindset is not what is best for America. Especially not right now.

    Lets hope that all of our elected officials in Congress come together to create some stimulus for small business, as well as some much needed health care reform. Thanks MC for the insightful survey.

  30. So here's my situation, while trying to make it in college, I found myself unemployed a few months ago. So I got pissed off at having to work for idiots, so I decided to run it my way. I started my own side business. I got $2000 around somehow, and I got a old Uhaul box truck, got insured, ect, starting a moving/junk removal business. I then used my video production/graphic design skills, which I'm going to school for, and is really my future calling, for advertising. Honestly, right away, business picked up, this was about 8 months ago, soon after, the economy tanked real hard. Calls dried up, business trickled in.. But, I've noticed during these past few weeks, calls have been coming back, and the general mood atmosphere in my opinion, is that spending has loosened just a bit. Im actually surprised I've stayed afloat, but I'm doing it, and I don't have to work for some asshole. So hey, good luck people, and if you ever need a director for your next music video, send me a message, I'll be doing that eventually, once the economy picks back up, hahaa. also on a side note, years from now, when I look back, im 25 now, I can guarantee I will look back and be glad that we went through this tough economic time because it made me smarter, tougher, and it forced me to make better decisions and habits which will benefit my bankroll in the future, I'm a tough son of a bitch

  31. Dear Mr.Chuck,

    Well appreciated your comments, well we have to think positive in this hard time and try our best to get something better and enjoy that betterment. We could not say that all of a sudden the ecomony will get better it was a result of long past activities and our attitude.

    We should have to do our best and expect some help from the Govt. to improve the activities and economy.

    Best regards,

    Nagendra Singh

  32. Thank you MC for the survey. I did participate too. I was carefully reading all the comments and just want to add my 2 cents.

    Thought #1: Government with our help should break BIG CORPORATIONS because when they grow big they become a monopoly in their own field and suppress all competition from smaller rivals. We should not allow with the government help to merge or acquire rivals. Competition is one of basic principles of capitalism that drives creativity, economy and everything in between.

    Thought #2: Times are changing and people are changing. Look back at your fathers and grandfathers times and try to think of what they would do in a current circumstances. My opinion is that they would act much faster without pointless discussions and rhetoric that drugs down any good effort. Doing business these days is much more difficult then in old times. More and more people these days live by simple principle: lets get rich quick and forget about tomorrow.

    Thought #3: Somebody famous said that "The people choose The Government which they deserve". We should look at ourselves first why we let these things happen. We need to bring personal responsibility back to all levels, starting with own family all the way to the government.

    Thought #4: The idea to get everybody what they need so everybody can be happy is called COMMUNISM. Communism as an idea is very good (in my opinion it is same as HEAVEN), but it is UTOPIA and against people's nature and will never happen, because people are different. Some laisy, some workaholics. Workaholics will always have more.

    Thought #5. For the future I would think that we are going to see more like this: Big UPS and BIG DOWNS, because when times are good people forget about about the bad times (proven by psychology)and go overboard.

    I am optimistic, but realistic at the same time.

    Thank you everybody for reading this and lets get together to make our life better.

  33. This quote was written in a previous comment by Chronic Pain Hero, but it needs to be repeated. "History does however give us clues as to how we can help: conversations need to be positive, optimistic; businesses need to be responsive and at times recreate themselves to serve a new need or create and new product."

    As a small business owner of I have found that I have to innovate to keep my business growing. Other small businesses are being hurt or even going out of business. This leaves the wise, lean, and mean businesses with additional market share. As markets overall shrink, the only way to grow is by earning or otherwise gaining greater market share. This requires nimble, creative, and unique responses to meet the needs of your customers.

    Let’s do it! Let us find the ways to meet our customers’ needs in a new way. With a new product, a new service, a new marketing ploy, a new channel of distribution. Let us bring back America as the most innovative country in the world! We all are Americans. We all must be proud of this and the liberty we have! Let us not sell ourselves short. Rather, we all need to move forward into this next chapter of our business with passion and zeal!

    God Bless the USA!


  34. As most of my brothers and sisters have said in one form or another , it has been a VERRRY difficult year for most and most assuredly myself as i to am a very small business owner.I do not BLAME the president for my loss , but i do believe a heck of alot more could have been done to not scare people into the recession we are trying to come out of. In the line of work i am in , my customers have the money they are just afraid to spend it for fear they will be downsized and forced to spend the nest egg to keep the family together or worse than that,EAT.Our government appears to want a socialist society,THAT DOES NOT WORK FOR ME AND MY FAMILY.I heard on the news the other day that a politician was quoted for saying that he did not care how many people came to d.c. to rant and rave,that his mind was made up on the decision and that was that.THAT BASTARD WAS ELECTED INTO OFFICE.If we continue to keep people like that in office we are securing our place and those of us with employees a spot in the unemployment line,food stamp office,or jail for stealing to feed our hungry children.Every one of you is what AMERICA was founded on and for,THE SMALL BUSINESS.May god bless each and every one you.Remember when you opened your business and the dreams you had,nothing worth having is worth giving up.

  35. Yes, the economy must be getting better. Our congress said the recession is over! Then they voted themselves a pay raise! HOORAY! It's easy to say something then spend our money when your not accountable to the bottom line.

  36. Thank you MerchantCircle for the survey. Leave it to you to do more for your members. I enjoyed participating as well as reading what fellow members had to say. I personally felt the crush this year even though my sales were higher than last year. In planning my over view I had anticipated higher sales, but grateful for the climb I had. I wish I had a secret to share with everyone. I am in a business that can combine gift giving to all in a family, not just one person, and I think the senders see it as a better value than an individuale gift? Don't really have the answer just speculating on the feedback I do get from my clients. A little suggestion: try to expand your wares or services to include all family members (where possible). If ever we must think outside the box this is the time. We all must constantly get creative on how to survive this struggling economy. We will get passed this and if we keep strong and commit to change when you can, we will all have a shot. Keep positive, I wish everyone all the best. Happy Holidays
    Francine Kunder
    Brooklyn Gourmet Gift Baskets

  37. Thanks for the results Kevin et al. I posted a brief blog post (on my new site) here:

    As I reflect on my own experience in launching and running (and attempting to expand) a small, local business (Savvy Cellar Wines), it seems you get hit on all sides - consumer confidence & shrinking customer base; higher taxes; unaffordable healthcare for employees and higher licensing fees. The first I can accept as part of the state of the economy but the rest serve to only make it harder to do business and create jobs.

    Even as a native Canadian (where I always thought they were a little soft on socialism), I fear we are in an environment where public servants no longer serve the public, but rather where we citizens and our economic wherewithal serves the gov't and bureaucracy.

    I hope I am wrong.