Support Your Local Community and Businesses during These Trying Times
by Karen Whiting
The coronavirus has impacted lives around the world, and we pray it does not change the landscape of our communities when it passes. Meanwhile, we can pray and help to keep small businesses alive.
Pray as retailers work to keep their business going during social distancing or closures. They may need to re-staff and add additional security measures that will cost them more time and money. Pray that the stores will come through this crisis financially able to move on.
Consider various ways you can help, knowing each little action will help your community survive. Some stores that remain open have implemented new procedures or are offering special hours for seniors to allow for distancing. Be thankful they are showing love and respect to those citizens.
Ask if they offer delivery, curbside carryout or mail order services. Anyone can add such new services. One Catholic church even added a drive through confession service. Christian bookstore owners that I spoke with are willing to mail, deliver and do carry out service (where government permits that). McNally Jackson Books, an independent bookstore in New York, advertised they are closed for browsing but open for business. They promise to ship anywhere, and their post generated web sales.
If stores in your area have closed their physical locations, be sure to follow your favorite retailers on social media. Take time to explore area businesses online and discover new ones. Check Yelp to link to businesses like bookstores, boutiques and others.
This is a good time, with less busyness and driving, to connect online with your favorite store. Join an online event such as a book club, fashion show or other activity. Or consider starting your own club devoted to highlighting the products your local retailer carries. They can send you photos and work with you on your stay-at-home shopping event.
Promote businesses. Snap a photo with a favorite purchase from a local shop, such as a book, game or gift, and share it on your social media with a reminder to help local businesses. Add comments about the owners and how much you like the business.
If your finances are not too tight, order online from local businesses. They will appreciate the order. It may cost a little more, but it’s to save the store and your community. Today might be that rainy day to open your piggy bank and help a local business.
Send a card to businesses to let them know you are praying. Ready cash can be given to the stores through buying gift cards they sell. That helps them have money now and gives them hope of business once they reopen. The gift cards can make the difference between surviving and closing their doors. Some locations are offering gift cards at reduced rates to entice customers to support them.
Mary Margaret Bittle, owner of Morning Star: A Perfect Gift Christian Bookstore in Waynesboro, PA, is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Waynesboro to offer gift cards at a discount and plan future post-pandemic events. On their Facebook page, they offer suggestions of games to play, videos to watch, and books to read. They also let customers know all the ways they can shop and receive merchandise. Mary Margaret says, “Most importantly, I let them know that we are praying for them and posting encouraging scriptures for them to read.”
Other entrepreneurs are also being creative. A few took photos and posted pictures of products not being sold while their doors are closed. Others have offered Facetime service for customers to call in and shop with the retailer, so they can see the merchandise and talk about the products they are interested in. Facebook live events are popping up from small stores. Follow your favorites on Facebook and watch for such events. Their video might let you see items you never knew they carried.
Mira Whiting, with Mira Whiting Photography, started the front porch project to help the hungry and generate a little income. She’s doing distance/drive-by photos of families on the front porches or on their yards. Sixty percent of the money families spend goes to two organizations that provide food for the needy. That’s the ingenuity needed that connects the community to help one another.
Sure, the US Business Administration is offering loans, but those will need to be repaid. That’s like giving owners a raft but leaving them in a stormy ocean. Be ready to shop local after life settles back down to help them be able to pay back any loans.
Business owners are heartbroken as they have to lay off workers during this time. For many, the business has been their dream and life work. I ordered from a local restaurant and they shared how much it hurt to let ninety percent of the staff go. Yet, they still have to pay bills with what orders they get.
Our country and communities within its borders tend to unite during difficult times. People come out after a storm passes to help, and that’s the big hope of small business owners. We cannot come out now, but we can be willing helpers when doors reopen.
CAN member Karen Whiting, (www.karenwhiting.com) author of 26 books, loves to connect with retailers and reach out to readers.
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