NEW YORK — The final three months of the year, usually a boom time for many small businesses thanks to holiday shopping and celebrations, looks precarious as the coronavirus maintains its grip on the economy.

Owners contending with government restrictions or crumbling demand are trying to hold on, with some creating new products and services or desperately searching for new customers. Others, however, have found they’re already well equipped to meet the lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic.

The big corporate and non-profit parties and events that Sophia D’Angelo ran before the virus outbreak have just about vanished. Large in-person gatherings that companies typically use to launch or promote their brands aren’t possible because of social distancing requirements.

“The fourth quarter was always the bulk of my business,” says D’Angelo, who owns Boston Experiential Group, based in Boston.

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D’Angelo has had to get creative. She’s using her expertise to arrange small gatherings like holiday-themed dinners and parties at people’s homes, usually for no more than 10 guests.

The fourth quarter is a key time for many industries and companies of all sizes. Some retailers typically expect to make as much as half their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, as do many of their suppliers. Any business connected with holiday parties and celebrations also has high hopes for the October-December period.

This photo provided by Adam M. Rammel shows the beer garden at The Syndicate on Aug. 20, 2020 in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Many restaurants, event planners and even companies like distillers and corporate gift manufacturers face weaker revenues although t

But conditions are dicey this year. The coronavirus has devastated many small businesses; it’s estimated that hundreds

A new study from the Business Development Bank of Canada finds that 76% of the small- and medium-sized Canadian businesses surveyed saw a decline in revenue and profits in 2020. Nearly half laid off staff, while about 39% of entrepreneurs have taken on more debt to survive.

The good news is that recent experience has shocked many households and businesses to focus on greater efficiency, reduce costs, and build up cash savings – critical behaviours needed to restore financial strength.

The bad news is that as the recession and under-employment continue, many lack the income needed to rebuild. Many are more indebted now than they were six months ago.

Two-thirds of small business owners say they’re in a worse situation now than before the pandemic. And insolvency trustees are warning of similar trends in Canadian households.

New Bank of Canada chief Tiff Macklem acknowledged Canada’s debt-linked fragility today in a speech: “The bottom line is that the private and public sectors together need to be acutely aware of financial system risks and vulnerabilities as the economy recovers.”

Falling commercial and residential rents are much needed for reducing overhead costs, but property prices must also follow, and the income and balance sheet losses will hurt present owners and lenders.

As shown in the chart below (source: not indicated), since 1990, central banks don’t admit it, but the policy obsession with lower and lower interest rates is the cornerstone of our present fragility.

As the interest component of mortgage payments flatlined from 2008 to 2017, prices paid soared along with the debt’s principal portion. This inflated debt is now a heavyweight on consumption and saving ability for years into the future.

Simultaneously, the low rates that have enabled record debt, unaffordable shelter and other asset bubbles have worsened retirement prospects worldwide as