The coronavirus pandemic has crashed the U.S. economy and brought certain industries to a near standstill —  including retail, entertainment, food and accommodations. Cities that have traditionally relied on these sectors to employ their citizens may be particularly vulnerable.

A new LendingTree study ranks the 100 U.S. metro areas with the most retail establishments to see which ones stand to feel the biggest pinch. Researchers found that mid-sized cities are at greatest risk. Six of the top 10 cities are in the Sunbelt.

Key findings

  • Myrtle Beach, S.C.,  has the highest concentration — 35.4% — of local businesses in the retail, entertainment, and food and accommodations sectors (the U.S. Census Bureau groups food services and accommodations as one sector).
  • Salisbury, Md., is in second place. Nearly one-third of all businesses here (32.3%) are in one of the affected industries. Scranton, Pa., comes in third with 28.8% of establishments in vulnerable industries.
  • Larger cities such as Salt Lake City, Denver and Minneapolis round out the bottom of our list. These areas are less reliant on retail, entertainment and food and accommodations, as an average of nearly 20% of businesses there operate in those sectors.

Metros with the most vulnerable industries in the time of COVID-19

1. Myrtle Beach, S.C.

This coastal South Carolina town has the most businesses operating in the at-risk industries we identified for this study. Out of 11,623 total establishments in the area, Myrtle Beach has about 2,158 businesses in retail, 1,631 in accommodation and food services, and 320 in entertainment, including arts and recreation.

Visitors to Myrtle Beach are crucial to the region’s economy, as they support jobs, businesses and residents’ quality of life. The area’s 20.4 million annual visitors make a $7 billion impact. On April 6, South Carolina joined the growing list of states to close non-essential businesses to the public, including the many retail stores, entertainment venues and recreational facilities that hold up Myrtle Beach’s tourism industry as a whole. As the summer months approach, Myrtle Beach and other U.S. tourist towns may miss out on crucial revenue while these businesses stay closed.

2. Salisbury, Md.

Salisbury, Md., has 32.3% of businesses in industries that may be threatened by COVID-19 precautions. There are 1,898 retail establishments, 1,342 accommodations and food service businesses, and 193 entertainment, arts and recreation establishments among the total 10,627 businesses in the Salisbury metro area.

Non-essential businesses closed throughout Maryland on March 23, including restaurant dining rooms, shopping malls and movie theaters. The state remains under a stay-at-home order and gatherings of more than 10 people are restricted, which means many Salisbury attractions like breweries, historical parks and museums are off-limits to the public. The Salisbury Area Coronavirus Recovery Task Force provides resources for businesses in the area as well as general information for those looking to track the situation.

3. Scranton, Pa.

In the Scranton metro area, 28.8% of all 13,149 businesses are in vulnerable industries. Scranton has 2,184 retail businesses, 1,432 businesses in accommodations and food services, and 172 establishments in entertainment, arts and recreation.

All Pennsylvania counties are under a stay-at-home order through April 30. Scranton’s top attractions — such as mountain resorts, minor league baseball games and local festivals — are paused during the pandemic.


In order to rank the places with the highest density of industries vulnerable to coronavirus, researchers looked at data for three industries: food and accommodation, retail, and arts, entertainment and recreation. We compared the number of establishments in each of these three industries to the total number of establishments in each metro area. The metro area with the highest percent of establishments in those three industries ranked first, while the metro with the lowest score ranked last. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s Business Patterns and is from 2017.

This piece originally appeared on LendingTree.