The holiday season is truly upon us. With the passing of Thanksgiving, it is no longer controversial to be decorating for Christmas. No matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, the fourth quarter is better known as “spending season.” Recently, the weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday generated an estimated 10.8 billion in online sales alone.
Small businesses have already suffered greatly this year. Coupling the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions some businesses face, with the accessibility and ease of big-name online retailers and box stores, the picture for small businesses nationwide seems to get only more complicated.
Huge retailers and big-name companies have been instrumental in keeping people employed during this extraordinary time. While the cash flow from these major companies allows millions of people to stay employed, it’s important to be cognizant of the impacts these big-box stores and online retailers are having on small businesses.
Many small businesses rely on holiday sales in the fourth quarter; it seems this is only heightened by COVID-19. Supporting small businesses helps our own community beyond just their owners and employees; American express estimates that “67 cents of every dollar [spent at a small business] … stays in the community.” This provides an excellent opportunity for each of us to make a conscious effort this holiday season to help our communities in an efficient and productive way by remembering small businesses.
Here are six ways to help small businesses during this holiday season:
Shop in-store before Amazon.
Online shopping can be extremely convenient and time-friendly. But if you do have the time, shopping in-store at a local business can be rewarding and fun in and of itself. Make an effort to purchase at least one of your presents for someone this year at a local or family-owned business.
Choose handmade over brand-name.
If shopping online is a priority, many people run side-businesses on sites like Shopify and Etsy. Etsy makes it especially easy to find custom gifts from independent sellers. Buying jewelry from an Etsy seller would put your money directly into the hands of the person you’re purchasing from, which can be a nice thought as many are trying to make a little more money for the holidays.
Promote on Social Media.
The power of social media is not to be underestimated. There’s clearly a reason why major companies place such an emphasis on social media marketing, as spending on advertisements increases every year – it drives business. Anyone can do this effectively on a smaller scale by sharing information about local stores. Posting a story or picture from a local business, restaurant, or coffee-shop will reach more people in your community than you might think!
We all love chain-based restaurants, but eating at family-owned restaurants in your community can help their owners and employees greatly during this time. If you go out with friends or family this time of year, maybe try a place you never have before; it makes for a fun time and helps support its owners and employees who can’t rely on corporate backing like a big chain can.
Use gift cards.
Gifting friends and family gift cards to small businesses provides business before the holidays, and guarantees business afterward. This can also drive further business if your friend or family member purchases more than the gift card amount. Giving gift cards is also another way to get the word out about local businesses you love to those who may not have considered shopping there before.
Many consumers consistently check the online reviews of a business before we go in, and this is especially true of restaurants. Providing generous reviews of local restaurants and businesses bolsters their credibility and helps greatly in attracting new customers.
Increasing regulations in most places, with the uncertainty of another comprehensive stimulus package, has been damaging to small businesses nationwide. The situation for small businesses is perhaps even more dire than it was at the beginning of the pandemic when there was consensus about getting a big stimulus through Congress quickly.
This means that it’s especially important to remember how vital local businesses are to our communities and our duty to sustain them with the choices we each make. Let’s all work to bolster our communities by remembering small businesses this holiday season. If we each picked one or two of these ideas listed above to utilize this holiday season, there’s no doubt that our communities would experience a positive impact.