The Worst Business Ideas in America

The COVID-19 pandemic was a historically major shock to the U.S. economy, accelerating market trends by several years and adding an unprecedented level of uncertainty to the global business environment. Still, many industries have thrived in the new economy, offering many opportunities to entrepreneurs. Opportunities in other industries, however, shrank due to  economic trends of the last several years. Some of them are among America’s 25 dying industries.

To determine the worst business ideas in America, 24/7 Wall St. identified the fastest shrinking small business industries using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns program. Detailed industries were ranked based on the percentage change in establishments from 2017 to 2021. Only industries in which the average establishment size is less than 20 employees were considered.

Many of the fastest shrinking small business opportunities are in industries being hammered by the decades-long shift from print to digital media. From 2018 to 2022, the average amount of time adults spent consuming digital media rose from 6.3 to 8 hours, while engagement with traditional media fell from 6 to 5.3 hours. As a result, businesses like video rental, one-hour photofinishing, and newsstands continued to decline. Companies in these industries will likely not make the list of youngest companies in the Fortune 500.

Other small businesses have suffered from the shift to e-commerce from traditional brick-and-mortar stores. The dominance of online retailers like Amazon continues to drive independent clothing stores, shoe stores, and appliance stores out of business. The number of children’s and infants’ clothing stores fell by 41.3% from 2017 to 2021, the third most of any small business industry.

Click here to see the worst business ideas in America.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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