Here's how to support small businesses and help keep your local economy afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Brigitt Earley
November 20, 2020
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fizkes / Getty Images
| Credit: fizkes / Getty Images

If there was ever a time to show local mom and pop shops some love, it's this holiday season. Local economies have long been struggling to compete with the conveniences of online shopping and two-day shipping, but the COVID-19 pandemic has added a unique challenge. For nearly a year, these small local businesses have weathered particularly turbulent times. For months on end, restaurants, salons, retail stores, and other small establishments remained shuttered. And when they could finally open, they were hit with capacity restrictions that severely limited the amount of business they could do—even if their customers were comfortable enough to leave their homes and dine, get pampered, or shop. The harsh reality: Without sufficient support from the community, many of these businesses simply won't survive the pandemic

So, what can you do to help? First, and most importantly, close your computer. That doesn't mean leaving your house, though. There are plenty of ways to safely shop locally this holiday season.

Order Takeout

In many cases, even restaurants who don't normally offer takeout and delivery services have changed their policies to expand business opportunities. Call your favorite restaurant to see what they're offering. While some have their entire menu available for curbside or delivery, others are getting creative with special meal plans. You may even be able to buy your entire holiday meal—turkey and all—from your favorite local restaurant. 

Shop Virtually

Likewise, many salons and retail stores are also getting creative with their offerings. If you look, you'll find everything from hair stylists offering dye kits and virtual consultations, to shopkeepers helping you browse and buy via FaceTime, to restaurants offering things like pizza-making kits. In most cases, all you have to do is pick up the goods or wait for the delivery

Sign Up for Virtual Classes

There are also a number of ways to support local businesses without buying physical goods. Look for gyms and fitness studios doing live workouts or restaurants conducting cooking classes—all via streaming platforms like Zoom.

Buy Gift Cards

If you're not comfortable picking up curbside or accepting deliveries, consider buying gift cards to local businesses instead. (Many retailers can offer you e-gift cards or track your purchase, so you don't have to pick up any physical goods.) To survive, these establishments are dependent on cash flow now. By giving them your money today, you'll help keep them afloat. Then, you can either give these certificates to someone else or use the gift card at your leisure, when you feel more comfortable doing so. 

Don't Cancel Memberships

If you have the means, reconsider canceling any memberships or subscriptions—even if you can't currently use them. And if paying the entire fee seems too steep, get in touch with the business. You may be able to pay a reduced subscription, saving you in your budget, but also putting some cash in their pocket. 

Leave Positive Reviews

Word of mouth can be invaluable to local businesses—especially when so many people are searching for creative ways to get the goods they need and indulge in some retail therapy. Writing a positive review detailing your experience—how they went out of their way to help you, how they’re operating safely, or simply how delicious their food is or how vast their product selection is—can go a long way in getting others in their proverbial door. 

And Share on Social Media

While you're at it, why not go the extra mile? It only takes a few seconds to share your positive review to your social media channels, greatly amplifying the post and, thus, increasing the odds that someone decides to shop with them or use their services. 

This story originally appeared on marthastewart.com