Though the COVID-19 pandemic has battered the whole U.S. economy, small businesses in particular have felt the worst of its wrath. Not only have countless small businesses closed their doors due to the necessities of social distancing, but both those that have stayed open and those that are slowly starting to reopen have a number of barriers to grapple with.
For one thing, an enormous number of Americans are in tough spots financially, whether because they've lost their jobs -- 39 million have filed for unemployment since mid-March -- seen their income drop, or are bearing added expenses. Furthermore, some consumers may be apprehensive about rejoining society, even after two months of virtual lockdown, given that COVID-19 is far from contained. These people may have money to spend, but might also be wary of physically stepping foot into local establishments.
Still, there's some positive news on the small business front: A good 75% of consumers say they plan to make a concerted effort to support small businesses as much as possible once restrictions are lifted in their areas, according to a recent Groupon study conducted by OnePoll. Further, the average American plans to spend close to $100 a week at local businesses once it's safe to do so.
That's good for those businesses, and it's good for communities too. Studies have found that between $0.67 and $0.73 out of every dollar spent at a local business stays in the community, compared to around $0.43 out of every dollar spent at chain stores.
If you're eager to support local businesses yourself, here are a few things you can do to breathe life into smaller operations that may really be struggling right now.
1. Stock up on items you know you'll use over time
If there's a local store in your area that sells items you tend to use repeatedly, stocking up for the long term is a good way to pump some cash into that business. For example, if you tend to do a lot of gardening, buy enough supplies from your local nursery to last you through the summer months if you can swing it, and if you have where to store them.
2. Purchase gift cards
Maybe you're nervous about sitting back down for a meal at your favorite local restaurants that are just starting to reopen their doors for dine-in meals. You may feel very differently in two or three months if the pandemic wanes. But to help ensure that those establishments remain open until then, buy some gift cards to use in the future. That way, you'll have some fun outings to look forward to once it's safer, while giving those restaurants the ability to keep paying their bills -- and their staff -- in the meantime.
3. Write positive reviews
Maybe you're not ready to frequent local businesses yet, and you may not have the spare cash to buy gift cards or months' worth of supplies. But you can still support nearby establishments by promoting their services on social media and writing positive reviews about them online. You may end up driving new customers to those businesses when they really need them.
We all miss normal life, and most of us are eager for our local businesses to reopen. In these unprecedented times, it's worth making an effort to support smaller businesses that don't have the type of financial resources larger corporations do. So when you get back out there, shop at a local clothing store, for example, instead of national chains. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the last thing you want is for those in your area to shut down for good. But we all need to pitch in together to prevent that from happening.