An Interview with Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics
Alan Beaulieu is the president of ITR Economics, the oldest privately held, continuously operating economic research and consulting firm in the U.S. With a reputation as an accurate and straightforward economist, Mr. Beaulieu has been delivering workshops and economic analysis seminars around the world to thousands of business owners and executives for the last 30 years.
He is the co-author of “Prosperity in the Age of Decline,” a look at how to make the most of U.S. and global trends over the next 20 years. He also co-authored “Make Your Move,” a practical guide to increasing profits through business-cycle changes.
This month, he gives laundry owners a brief glimpse into the possible post-COVID-19 economy.
Given the historic nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, how would you best describe the state of the nation’s economy these days?
The U.S. economy is reeling, and it will continue to do so for months to come. At ITR, we expect the GDP to plummet in the second quarter of 2020, before staging a comeback in the third and fourth quarters. We also expect a full recovery to follow in 2021.
How do you think COVID-19 and its fallout will impact the economy moving forward?
Some industries will be slower to rebound, but essentially we should return to business and social interaction as the year unfolds. The citizenry will be talking about COVID-19 for years, but I don’t think we will be living in fear for anything close to that long.
What other factors – related to the coronavirus or otherwise – do you believe will affect the economy in the coming months?
The massive intervention by Congress and the Federal Reserve Board will serve to stimulate the economy and/or help some businesses to at least limp through intact.
How can laundry owners anticipate future changes in the business cycle before these changes occur?
Laundry owners can expect their previous segment of the population to come back and utilize their services just as they did before.
What are some emerging economic trends – both positive and negative – that laundromat owners should be preparing for today?
They should be prepared to be open and operational. In addition, they can expect to be busier as the population continues to expand. There will be some inflation and interest rate increases in the future, but that is still years away.
Clearly, the COVID-19 outbreak has deeply impacted the financial markets. What are your thoughts and expectations with regard to interest rates and other financial market trends?
The financial markets will rebound and eventually return to growth. The view that they will remain bearish for years is nothing more than straight-line forecasting or an unwarranted fear that the virus is here to stay.
As we emerge from this crisis, how can laundromat owners best prepare for the challenges and opportunities they’ll surely face in the coming years?
The best way to prepare is to be optimistic. Laundry owners need to keep their facilities and their equipment clean, fully functioning and easy to use. In addition, store operators should look for opportunities to expand their businesses in 2021 and 2022.
What are your expectations regarding both the human and business impact of this unprecedented crisis?
Life will go on, pretty much as it has in the past. For proof of that, simply look to Word War II, the turmoil of the 1960s, 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008-09, as well as to the aftermaths of those historic events.
What’s the best advice you can give a laundromat owner looking to maintain and grow his or her business within the next 12 months?
Keep your laundry business current in terms of technology and ease of use – and be ready to expand now or anytime in the next 12 months. Now is a good time to buy, if you can find a seller who is either afraid or unrealistically pessimistic.