Small Business Saturday more critical this holiday season amid coronavirus pandemic

Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday, a national initiative to shop local and break away from large box stores. However, this year shoppers will notice a few changes because of COVID-19.

For many independent shops, like Zoolikins Children’s Boutique in Scottsdale, Ariz., Small Business Saturday is typically their busiest day of the year.

“We’ve done it every year and this year we’re offering 20% off your entire purchase,” said Britney Matz, marketing and events coordinator at Zoolikins.

They now require mask use inside their store due to COVID-19 precautions, and they also added hand sanitizing stations and revamped their website.

“So as a children boutique we’ve always taken extra precautions to sanitize for our customers, we have a lot of pregnant moms and new moms and small children…at the register we have a clean pen, used pen system and we’ve also increased the frequency of sanitizing surfaces throughout the store,” said Matz.

The assistant manager at Cardullo's Gourmet Shoppe employee helps a customer at the store in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA on Sept. 24, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

“We rely a lot on foot traffic and on tourism, and that’s obviously been a struggle… every time I open the store I still wipe down the doorknobs and wipe down the surfaces.”

Down the road, art gallery owner Andrea Zakrzewski is accepting customers by appointment only.

“So with COVID we wanted to be very careful, so we have been available by appointment and everyone has to wear a mask and there’s a limit on how many people can be in the gallery at a certain time, and we are sanitizing and following all the protocols so people can feel very safe coming to the gallery,” said Zakrzewski, owner of Gallery Andrea.

Many small businesses in Scottsdale rely on tourism, but with the pandemic sales are down across town. However, with the holidays coming, things are starting to pick back up.

“No matter what’s happening I think supporting small business is so great because that’s what adds character to a community…you come to a small business they have all kinds of gifts for Christmas, I mean you could just do your whole shopping and support local,” said Zakrzewski.

RELATED: New Yorkers urged to shop local this holiday season

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 160,000 businesses nationwide have closed their doors and more than half of them are closed for good, according to the latest Yelp Local Economic Impact Report.

Mark Stanton, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce, says small businesses are the backbone of the economy and community because they help create jobs and economic infrastructure.

“What you’re really seeing is resilience, you’re seeing individuals that are saying I’m not going to give up, I’m going to do what I can to provide a service or goods to our customers in our community and to continue to make a difference. Sadly there are some businesses that can’t make it,” said Stanton.

Shopping habits have also shifted this year as more people are trying to play it safe by shopping online instead of in person. According to Gallup’s annual holiday spending predictions, Americans will spend an average of $805 on Christmas gifts this year, significantly below its estimate a year ago and the lowest holiday spending projection since 2016. However, the U.S. Small Business Administration says the economy is picking back up as we head into the holidays.

“During these pandemic times competition is stiff, and so consumer temperaments are probably at edge at this time, so they're going all out to provide quality service and hospitality and very unique products,” said Jovita Carranza, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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“Small businesses, by no means is small, by the way, there's 31 million small businesses in the United States… Together, we definitely can generate billions of dollars, even during these pandemic periods of holiday season purchases.”

In fact, by shopping local you’re not only helping that individual business but the entire community too.

“They’re supporting the community through sales tax dollars, you’re going to spend those dollars, it’s going to stay here, it’s going to go to work here. The other thing is for instance in Phoenix we have about half a million small businesses, well over a million people employed here, so you’re also supporting your neighbors,” said Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber.

Leanna Haakons, author and Black Hawk Financial founder, said this pandemic has forced business owners to get creative and it’s helping them stay afloat.

“You know most small businesses now are offering curbside pick-up, so you could call in and order, or call in and ask about what inventory they have, and a lot of the small businesses are actually getting really creative with some of their offerings like doing online workshops or family meal kits,” said Haakons. “All of your public services, your infrastructure and different things in your own communities, run off of business and individual taxes, so if lots of small businesses start closing down in your area you might notice a real lag in your public services.”

Haakons said there are other ways to support local businesses without spending money. You could leave a good online review, give a shoutout on social media or tell friends to check them out.

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