Local businesses have been hard hit over the last nearly two years. While experts predict a strong holiday season this year, business owners are still bracing themselves for challenges and lower ROI than in years past. And, unfortunately, many small businesses have had to close their doors over the course of the pandemic, creating empty storefronts and additional worries for already-stressed business owners.
However, business owners are preparing to meet the challenge: including researching the most effective holiday hashtags and Instagram post ideas and taking more creative approaches when it comes to their holiday marketing strategy. But they will not be able to do this on their own: they will also need the help and support of their community.
In this article, we’ll explain why your support can make all the difference to local businesses this holiday season, and then share some strategies for doing your part.
Why it’s important to support small businesses during the holidays
At a time when many of us have been working remotely for over a year or slowly re-entering the workplace, and when many small businesses have navigated a new way of doing business, we might have forgotten why it’s important to support local, small businesses.
The economic recession has hit a lot of people and businesses hard. The unemployment rate temporarily shot up to its highest rate since the Great Depression last year, many consumers saw their savings drained due to a lack of income, and many more people witnessed their credit scores take a massive hit with 53% of Americans having a credit application outright denied last year.
But here’s some good news: geography still counts. Recent research by American Express found that around 67 cents of every dollar spent at small, local businesses stick around in your local economy, in contrast to dollars paid to retail giants that are spirited away into already-hefty bank accounts.
What’s even better is that 44 of those cents go to the small business owners and their employees’ wages, which means that by shopping locally you are supporting your neighbor’s salary and their family.
Shopping locally also has benefits for you as a shopper. Gone are the days when local shops carried substandard, dusty merchandise. Today, your local retailer is likely to offer a range of convenient ways to pay for bespoke treasures that you simply can’t find on the mega-platforms that dominate our economy.
How to support small businesses in your community
Unsure how to get started supporting small businesses in your community this holiday season? Try these four tips.
1. Make an effort to buy from small businesses
Small Business Saturday is an initiative set up by American Express, but don’t let the corporate sponsorship put you off. This annual day of celebration puts millions of dollars behind local businesses. Even better, Small Business Saturday occurs the day after Black Friday, so it’s easy to put off (at least some) of your purchases for 24 hours to show your support for your local business community.
A great way to support local businesses is simply to show up on Small Business Saturday and make a purchase, no matter how small. Not only will this put money in the pocket of local businesses, but the process of searching for the store you want will also likely teach you a lot about the range of shops and products in your local neighborhood.
Once Small Business Saturday has passed, make it a point to continue supporting small and local businesses throughout the holiday season.
2. Support Black-owned businesses
Black-owned businesses have been especially hard-hit throughout the pandemic. Major companies Facebook have taken notice and launched initiatives like #BuyBlack Friday, which aimed to change the focus of Black Friday from supporting big-box department stores to supporting Black-owned businesses throughout communities.
But, it’s important to continue backing Black-owned businesses in your area long after #BuyBlack Friday passes. Make it an effort to support your favorite Black-owned business and find new Black-owned businesses to support during the holidays. Here are some tips to get started supporting Black-owned businesses.
3. Get the word out
Beyond spending your dollars at them, one of the most effective ways that you can help out your local businesses is to help them get the word out. If you’ve had a positive experience at a local business, then share this on social media, leave a review for the business online, or simply tell your friends about it.
Doing this can be extremely effective for small businesses, especially in today’s crowded marketplace. Most people say that online reviews for local businesses impact their purchasing decisions, which makes reviews a crucial part of managing brand reputation for small businesses.
This is true whether businesses are aware of it or not. Sadly, however, many small businesses (and especially your typical mom-and-pop store) are not aware of the power of online advertising or lack the skills necessary to take advantage of it. That’s where our next tip comes in…
4. Be responsible for your actions
The most fundamental and direct way of supporting local businesses, however, is also the most obvious: making purchases from them. You should therefore try to make as many purchases as possible within your community.
That, of course, is easier said than done. For many people, it’s difficult to find the time to search for products in local stores, which is likely why research shows that almost half of all consumers start to search for a product on online e-commerce marketplaces such as those built by Shopify or Wix, rather than in their local store. It’s fine, of course, to use these online marketplaces for research, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy from them.
Instead, once you’ve found the product that you want to buy, ask your local store if they carry it. Even if they don’t, they can likely order it in at a significant discount. This will support your local businesses via extra income. If your product takes a little longer to arrive, or has a little more markup than bargain-basement online stores, so be it: that is the price of living in a thriving neighborhood, rather than one filled with boarded-up shops.
Get started supporting small businesses now
Ultimately, supporting local businesses through the current crisis is going to take sacrifice and hard work on behalf of everyone: business owners themselves, but also everyone who is concerned about their local community.
For that reason, it’s never too early for local business owners to start thinking about your holiday marketing, and there is never a bad time for concerned shoppers to support these same businesses. In other words, the holiday season is a great time to make a commitment to shopping local, but don’t stop there – take the time to really engage with your local stores, and they will repay your investment many times over. Not necessarily in cold, hard dollars, of course, but in the feeling of connection you have with your local community.
About the author
Nahla Davies is from Brooklyn, NY. Since 2015, she has worked with enterprise clients around the world developing RegTech protocols and best practices. She shares her insights at nahlawrites.com.