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How to Support Small Businesses During Tough Times

A worker at a coffee shop, roasting and checking beans.

Local businesses are the lifeblood of communities large and small. When times get tough, though, small shops often find it hard to weather the storm and end up closing for good. Here are some ways you can help your local businesses.

Before we dig into our tips, though, we want to emphasize that helping local businesses is secondary to helping yourself. Financially, things are tight for many people. It’s a very stressful and extremely disruptive time.

If you’ve had the good fortune to work from home and keep your income stable, we’ve rounded up some ways you can help small businesses. If there’s one in particular that brings character to your local community, any of the following gestures might help it stay afloat through this difficult time.

Buy Gift Certificates

Buying gift certificates is an easy way to support a business. While you might think you can only get them in-store or from big box stores, many small businesses offer gift certificates online.

If one of your favorite locally-owned stores is closed right now, and you’re unable to find a way to purchase gift certificates from them online, try to contact the shop (via the email addy or form on the website or Facebook messenger) and ask if gift cards are available. Even if that’s not something the business usually offers, the owners might decide to create some to bring in some money.

You can buy gift certificates for yourself to use when the store is open again. Of course, you can give them as gifts, too. This will introduce your family and friends to your favorite businesses, while helping the owners stay afloat.

This is like giving your favorite local shop a little loan. Plus, you can look forward to a fun-filled day of shopping and spending those gift cards after this is all over.

Shop Online or Request Deliveries

Two cardboard boxes sitting on a porch.
New Africa/Shutterstock

Online shopping during this pandemic is the way to go since we aren’t supposed to be out on any unnecessary shopping trips. Not all small businesses have an online shop, though. However, you might be able to buy from them through other online shopping outlets, like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. Some might even sell items on Facebook or Instagram.

Some businesses that have had to shut their doors are offering discounts or free shipping to online shoppers. But some have had to cut off their online shipping, as well.

Even if a local shop doesn’t have an active internet presence or lacks the infrastructure for shipping, you can still reach out. Ask if you can place an order over the phone and get a local delivery or pick it up curbside.

Many local businesses have set up delivery routes that correspond with those their employees take home each day, so they can drop off orders on the way.

Buy Local Products at the Grocery

Even under shelter-in-place orders, people can still go to the grocery. If you do go out to restock, a small gesture that’s a big help is buying products made by local or regional companies.

For example, many grocers stock locally made coffee, bread, and beer. Starbucks will come out of this just fine. It’s the local roaster serving your little corner of the world who needs your help.

Keep Ordering Take-Out

A deliveryman on a moped.

In most states with shelter-in-place orders, restaurants are still able to offer delivery services. If you eat out regularly, keep doing so. Of course, if your own income has been affected, you might have to reduce how often you order out. When you do, though, choose a local eatery whenever possible to help them keep it going.

If you prefer eating out at restaurants, you can buy gift certificates to use later. The money you spend now on gift cards and takeout will not only help your favorite restaurants stay in business, but it will also help them keep a limited staff employed.

Find Out How to Donate

Lots of businesses have had to completely close down during the current pandemic. This affects both the owners and their employees. Although some of the extensive stimulus package money that’s been approved here in the U.S. will work its way to businesses, it’s still a massive hardship.

If you can afford it, consider donating money to your favorite local businesses. If you own a small business, start a campaign and request that customers donate money if they can. Explain that this will help you make up for any wages your employees are losing until you can reopen.

If donating isn’t in your budget, share the links to any business campaigns so others can help out if they can.

Times are lean and the world is going to look a lot different on the other side of this. Still, if enough of us stock up on gift certificates and get home deliveries from local businesses, we can help Main Street survive.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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