The holidays may be a little different this year, and that’s okay. There may not be as much air travel and there may be smaller family gatherings, but one thing that is sure to stick around is the spirit of giving. After all, that’s what the holidays are about. This year, as COVID-19 impacts communities and businesses, many individuals are looking for gifts that are not only useful to their loved ones but also help support local merchants and restaurants.
COVID-19’s Impact on Small Businesses
According to the United States Census Bureau, more than half of all small business owners across the country expect that it will take them more than sixth months to recover from effects of the pandemic. 83.5% of respondents in the hospitality and food service sector report business losses as a result of COVID-19, as do 70.8% of businesses that operate in the realm of arts, entertainment, and recreation.
With so much lost revenue, family-owned businesses are left to make challenging decisions, such as whether to remain open at all or to furlough employees who are more like family. Some are pivoting and changing up their business models to accommodate the changing times with great success. For instance, restaurants now offering meal delivery services. Yet, it can still be difficult to stay afloat.
As a medium-sized business ourselves, we relate deeply to the plight of employees at these organizations. And as marketers, we seek to help them find solutions.
How to Support Local Businesses
While much can be done on the business side of operations, we feel it’s important to get the word out to consumers that there are things you can do to support your local businesses as well. Keep these seven things in mind this holiday season as you plan your get-togethers and shop for gifts.
There are many ways that you can support businesses in your area, and the best part is that some of them don’t have to cost you a dime. Of course, if you can financially support local businesses it’s excellent to do that too. When you purchase from a local business, you’re doing more than simply exchanging money. You’re helping a family send their children to college, you’re helping ensure that there are jobs available in your community, and so much more.
Leave a good review on Google and social media. This is one way that you can support local businesses this holiday season without spending any money. Word of mouth is considered one of the best forms of advertising, and it’s rare these days for individuals to patron shop at a business without checking out what others have to say. In fact, one survey by INC. Magazine states that 84% of individuals trust online reviews as much as they trust a referral from a friend, and 91% of people read reviews before making a purchase decision. Your kind words about a local business, even if it’s been a little while since you last visited, could really help them out.
Share promotional posts on your social media page. Is your favorite restaurant offering a killer to-go menu at an excellent price? Or, maybe they’re letting kids eat free on certain days. If so, it’s likely that they’re posting about it on social media. Even if you’re not in the mood for take-out yourself that night, share their post on your page to help spread the word. Drop a nice line about your favorite items or the staff when you share to encourage others. Remember, people can’t take advantage of awesome promotions if they don’t know about them.
Gift cards, gift cards, gift cards. You can buy a gift card as a gift, or for yourself to use at a later time. Almost every type of business offers gift cards, whether it be your local nail salon, your favorite restaurant, or that shop that sells homemade soaps. Gift cards are a gift that can never go wrong–the person on the receiving end gets to pick out their own present, and the business gets the money now. And if you’re looking to send a gift to a loved one who’s far away, call the store or restaurant and inquire about egift cards or their ability to ship them. Purchasing gift cards from small businesses can help the company into the future as well, as one study states that 59% of consumers spend more than the value of the card they receive.
Gift someone with a service. When we think of gifts, our minds often drift toward the latest electronics and big-ticket items our loved ones are eying. But one way to give a thoughtful present while supporting local businesses is to gift a service. Think pet grooming, house cleaning, or lawn maintenance. These companies often offer either gift cards for redemption or allow you to pay for services for another person upfront. Who wouldn’t love a month of house cleaning or lawn mowing as a gift? You help the local business and gift your loved one convenience and their time back.
Have your holiday dinner delivered. Not only are many local restaurants offering promotions and amazing to-go deals, but many are also offering pre-fixe menus and family-style meals for delivery. Catering companies, particularly, are making headway in this area. With many events like weddings either postponed or downsized, these businesses are looking at new ways to keep revenue up. See if that catering company from your awesome work party last year is doing anything for the holidays, and if it’s in the cards cater your get together this year. You’ll be supporting a local business while enjoying food that’s to die for and alleviating yourself of a full day of cooking. It’s a win for everyone.
Buy direct from local retailers. The chances are that if you find a product on a mega-shopping site, a third-party retailer is the company actually selling the goods. Next time you’re shopping online check out the name of the company. It’s likely that you can find a direct link to their website and purchase items straight from the vendor. This helps small businesses that rely on online sales as there is often a fee set aside for the mega-retailer. The products may or may not be more expensive on the company’s own website, but you know that the small businesses will be keeping all of the profit.
Talk about your great experiences. Did you receive awesome service from a local business recently? Maybe you had an excellent meal or found the perfect gift at a small boutique. Tell your friends and family about it next time you chat! This time of year, everyone is looking for places to make a purchase and your direct referral could have quite an impact. Alternately, next time you’re in the market to buy a gift or make a purchase, ask your loved ones what local businesses they love to support. You’re bound to get some excellent recommendations.
Having a Safe and Healthy Holiday Season
Supporting local businesses this holiday season is a great way to give back to your community. From leaving positive reviews to making direct purchases, there are many actions you can take that will help all your favorite small businesses thrive through COVID-19. However, it’s also important to keep in mind crucial health and safety tips. If you’re experiencing symptoms of illness, stay home. While in years past you may not have canceled an outing because of a case of the sniffles, this year it’s imperative to pay close attention to any signs of infection and to protect others.
Additionally, one of the greatest gifts that you can give a local business or restaurant yourself is the gift of patience and compassion. Many businesses are adapting to a new way of working, often after having been in operation for many years. Navigating the current COVID-19 world is new for all of us. Understand that your favorite restaurant may experience service delays and that things may not run as seamlessly as we would always wish. And for now, that’s okay.
Above all else, this holiday season, be kind, be understanding, and share lots of smiles. The Lamark team is wishing everyone a very happy and healthy 2020 holiday season.