How to help your local small business thrive through a pandemic
2020 pushed us all to our limits and 2021 is looking to be much the same. We all wish to see light at the end of the tunnel...but the light is so far that it can be hard to see sometimes. As a small independent business, the past year has been an incredible roller coaster of emotions and stress, successes and challenges. When Covid first hit, every single day seemed daunting and scary. The fear of the unknown, finding new strategies to stay open, adjusting to the daily news and health regulations...it all took its toll. And now a year later, we’re still here. We had an amazing 2020 despite the challenges, yet sadly we can’t say the same for all small businesses. I thought I would take this time to share about how we can help small businesses survive these extremely trying times. By being supportive, creative and caring, all things are possible.
For starters, simply find out how you can shop at your favorite small businesses. Discover how they are operating, whether it be through curbside pick up or online orders only, or limited capacity in store shopping. Often their Google listing or social media will have information about that. If you prefer the old school method, simply call them and find out what they are doing. Each purchase you make DOES make a difference. A bar of soap, a bottle of fresh kombucha, a bang or beard trim (or a gift card for future shopping)...it all helps. With reduced selling and service capacity, businesses are stretched thin with staffing, rent and leases still due each month.
Secondly, spread the word! If you love a store, love a product, love a staff member, share it with your community. Tell your friends, family, co-works, neighbours...whoever might listen or benefit. Use social media! Customer created content on social media is HUGE. It generates new followers, new potential customers and it’s free advertising. Newspaper ads are really expensive, at least $1000 for a full page, radio is also costly and google ads really add up. With smaller advertising budgets (and often zero advertising budgets) compared to big box giants, every like, share, comment, Instagram story or Facebook check-in has an impact. And let’s not forget the trusty Google Review. Taking a moment to write a descriptive review of a business is key for Google to bring up these businesses when someone is searching for something specific. The more 5 star reviews, the more Goggle will send people to the business. More people = more sales = success. Simple.
Thirdly, reduce nickel and diming a small business with high interest and high points credit cards. If you have a choice when using plastic payments, use a debit card. They have the least amount of fees to process. It is typically a flat rate like $.05 per transaction. Apple and Wallet Pay have high interest that the business in turn has to pay for the privilege of accepting. I know we all like to collect these big travel points, but your small retailer is the one that is paying for them. This eats away at profits big time. The more illustrious the credit card, the more the small business has to pay in percentages per transaction. Monthly fees can be thousands of dollars and spread over the year, it can be the difference between making money or not. If you can, use cash...cash has no fees and is instant funds that the business can use immediately.
Lastly, during the pandemic, please, please adhere to the businesses policies and procedures regarding masks, maximum occupancy, sanitizing and whatnot. Most small businesses can’t afford a failing audit by health authorities, closures due to sickness and attacks on their staff or themselves when adhering to the set out rules. If you have a mask exemption or just don’t want to wear one, if you call a business, they are often happy to find alternative solutions for helping you. Most offer curbside pick up, delivery, shipping, door service and even private shopping times. While your comfort is important, and businesses don’t want to lose your patronage, please understand that they are doing their best to keep everyone safe and in good health. Writing a nasty review and bashing a business for upholding provincial and federal health guidelines doesn’t help anyone. Be kind, be understanding. We all are all stumbling along together trying to get through it the best we can.