Hello, Scampers family.
We hope this note finds you ALL safe, healthy and pursuing things that bring you comfort as we navigate the new normal within our community. It has been a bit of time since the state shut us down and we thought we ought to fill you in on how things are proceeding for Scampers.
First and foremost, we are still in business, even though it appears that many businesses are going to succumb to the financial pressures this economic downturn thrusts in our way. We have been applying for SBA support since before the Governor shut us down, although there has been little to come of it. We applied for a disaster relief loan as well as the Paycheck Protection Program as soon as it was possible to do so and, so far, neither have come through.
The good news is that our state government did a good thing by setting up and properly funding the SharedWork program via the Employment Security Department – as a result, our staff, while they have all been furloughed, are being supported by that program. It is meant to support temporarily laid off staff and it is doing so.
The not-so-good news is that, even though we are currently closed, our fixed expenses do not go away. We are still paying the full cost of all of our health benefits for staff, utilities (although our thermostats are set at 60 these days!), rent and so on. Our fixed expenses are about 1/3 of normal, but that means that the funds we had set aside for some intended upgrades of our sites is all but gone.
Should the SBA come through with either of the low interest loans that we’ve applied for, we would be able to get back on our feet more solidly, for sure, but we are at the mercy of a considerably under-funded federal program that has not appeared to actually support small businesses at all. Still, we cross our fingers, squeak as much as we dare at our bank and hope for the best possible outcome. We’ve also been applying for other support, too; there are some smaller, corporate-supported grants, but unfortunately, we have not made the cut for any of those yet.
Further, we understand that some dog daycares have been allowed to open, having specifically requested the opportunity to do so from the state. We realized very quickly that if we attempted to re-open too soon, our costs would immediately triple, but our attendance and salary costs would suddenly place us in a position that we could not survive.
As an example, we lost upwards of 30% of our attendance the moment the schools closed. Then, as more Work From Home mandates came down from many of our nearby employers, we lost another 40% of that regular attendance. At that point, it became a math exercise. How many staff can we actually support given the daily canine attendance we were seeing? That was pure guess work, plus, our fixed costs at full price were going to kill us quickly. Thus, when the statewide order came down to shutter for the time being, we realized that our very survival depended on us doing the same.
So, as we consider when we can and should re-open, we have to consider a number of things:
Health/safety of clients and staff: we must await instructions from the state about the Stay At Home order. Further, we must ensure that our buildings and protocols allow us to maintain even stricter social distancing. (More details to come on that front soon.)
Staying afloat: we simply must balance the expected attendance with our fixed costs to survive. At this point, we have to push forward expecting no financial assistance from external sources, so we have to handle this part with absolute clarity on a daily basis about who will come and how many staff we need to keep ourselves operating long-term. This is discussed in some detail below.
The schools are not going to re-open until September at the earliest and Work From Home orders, as far as we are able to track through some of our spousal, family and friend units, are not going anywhere. That means we have to jump back in without any real understanding of how many of our clients will come back right away. You all have made changes in how you are functioning that may impact your normal attendance profile with us. And, that makes total sense.
But, for us to plan for re-opening, we are going to ask you all to consider if, or how much, you would expect to take advantage of our re-opening. We must know if we are to expect 20% - 30% - 40% or more of normal attendance. Please respond to this email with any thoughts you have on that front. Be sure to note which location you typically use and if you might be willing to switch to one or the other, as we may find that opening one site first, with the second to follow based upon additional demand. Also, note that we do not expect boarding to be a near-term need, as travel is all but non-existent, but as that changes, we will be able to adjust.
Ultimately, we know we can’t really get back off the ground if we’re only at 20-30% of attendance and we’ve swung the doors of both buildings wide open.
We have been hearing from so many of you how much your dogs are missing their canine play time and how much of a struggle it is to keep them entertained while you are all trying to professionally meet via Zoom or MS Teams. We’ve all been enjoying the memes related to this reality, but we do understand that it is a genuine struggle. And, honestly, we’ve been missing your pooches terribly. Our staff fall in love with every new pooch we meet and it is hard to be so removed from them all!
We are so fortunate to have the best clients in the world! You have all been so supportive of what we do and we could not be more grateful for that. And, for you, we hope we can begin operations again soon, and look forward to trying to work out who is who from behind all of our respective masks!!
Please take continued care of your family and we’ll be back with you soon with more news about our plans.
Stina & Linda
P.S. – Please remember to respond with your thoughts about future attendance for your pooches – we are eager to hear how you are doing and how much your dog needs us to be back in action!