Small businesses have faced unprecedented challenges in 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic wore on throughout the year, small businesses continued to confront the economic fallout wrought by the virus.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of active business owners in the United States plummeted by 22 percent in the early stages of the pandemic. Though many businesses managed to hang on as the pandemic continued through spring, summer and fall, such businesses need their communities to continue to help them stay afloat.
Consumers have not been immune to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment figures skyrocketed across the globe, and in April retail sales dropped by 14.3 percent from the previous month according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and Deloitte Insights. But consumer spending gradually increased in various industries over the summer of 2020. As consumers loosen their purse strings and begin spending more, they can embrace some unique ways to help small businesses in their community.
• Support struggling industries. Consumers may not typically give much thought to whether an industry is struggling before spending their money, but doing so can help small businesses that have had an especially difficult time during the pandemic. Data from the USCB and Deloitte Services indicates that retail sales in certain industries continued to lag even as other industries recovered over the summer months. Sales in the clothing and accessory and food services and drinking places industries were still down nearly 20 percent in July 2020. Supporting locally owned businesses in these industries can infuse some much-needed cash into their operations.
• Think twice before buying from big box online retailers. Amazon has become such a go-to consumer resource that many shoppers forget they can comparison shop right on Amazon.com. And some consumers may be unaware that they can support small business when shopping via Amazon. Data from the Association of American Publishers indicates that print revenues have grown by more than 1 percent in 2020 as many people in quarantine are choosing to spend that time with a good book. When shopping for books via a site like Amazon, purchase books from independent sellers, who are often small book stores in local communities across the country.
• Purchase gift cards. Pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted in many places, but that doesn't necessarily mean consumers are confident enough to visit their favorite stores and restaurants in person. Gift cards can be a great way to support local businesses even if you're still hesitant to patronize them in person.
Small businesses continue to face an uphill battle as they confront the economic fallout of the pandemic. Consumers can show their support for locally owned businesses in their communities in various ways.