Back in March, hundreds of thousands of businesses in America closed up shop due to Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns all over the world. Nearly 9 months later, more than half of those businesses will never reopen again.

According to a Yelp Local Economic Impact Report, more than 160,000 U.S. businesses permanently closed from March to September 2020. While many industries have been able to adapt in the past few months, restaurant and retail businesses are struggling the most.

Big Box Vs. Small Business

While we are in the midst of the biggest shopping season of the year, many consumers are heading straight to big box stores to get their shopping done. While it may be more convenient to shop at a chain department store, local businesses need our help more than ever before.

While small businesses were hanging on by a thread in Q1, large retailers did better than ever before in online sales. Target, for example, experienced record numbers with online sales 24 percent higher than last year’s Q1. Walmart saw a whopping 97 percent increase.

“What used to happen before the pandemic is people used to shop at different stores for different products — and that has been disrupted because they don’t want to go outside,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData’s retail division. “The stores we do visit are the ones that are capturing more of our spend, and Target and Walmart have really benefited.”

As these big chain retailers continue to grow, small businesses are struggling to survive. The Paycheck Protection Program run by the federal government was designed as a lifeline to these small businesses so that they can afford to pay their employees; However, the program was riddled with issues and failed to give funding to many business owners. On top of that, the program closed in early August, leaving thousands of people to continue their struggle alone.

Shop Small

Holiday shopping onlineSmall businesses employ 59 million employees and account for 99.7% of all businesses in the U.S. The holiday season is a chance for shops to earn back revenue from three months of limited income.

While it may be easier or more affordable to bulk all of your holiday shopping into one trip at a big-box retailer, buying from a local shop will benefit your community. As a result of the pandemic, many small retailers have made the switch to online sales so that consumers can stay safe while shopping.

Check out a few ways you can shop small while staying safe:

  • Choose to shop local instead of buying with big-box retailers or huge e-commerce platforms for the holidays. There is almost always a small company that has what you need online.
  • Check local small business websites to see if there are online shopping options. Many offer free shipping opportunities or curbside pickup, so you can get what you need without going in public.
  • Call ahead to ask about the best times to shop. Going out during slow sales periods can limit your contact with people and help you get the best service from local businesses.
  • Spread your shopping out. Starting as early as possible and buying a little at a time can take the sting out of holiday costs while letting you enjoy the festivities and support small businesses.

With small retailers making various adjustments for consumers during 2020, there’s no reason not to support the cause if you’re already planning to buy holiday gifts.

“I’m always impressed by how well people here care for each other,” said Mike Brown, director of the East Hawaii Small Business Development Center. “I think that this holiday season is just another example of how to demonstrate that. … By choosing to do something like getting a meal from a local restaurant or gift from a local store, you’re helping take care of your neighbor, and I think that’s important right now.”

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