Every couple of hundred years or so, something comes along that – for better or worse – changes the world as we know it, and right now, COVID-19 is confronting us with a global health emergency come economic crisis.
It’s still too early to estimate the full extent of the economic damage caused by the pandemic, but the time to try and anticipate its effects is now and where to focus efforts.
Unemployment rates have skyrocketed as businesses are forced to shut their doors for the sake of public health while still trying to keep their heads above water. Some of this will be temporary, but some business owners will be forced to shut down for good – potentially wiping out whole segments of the economy.
This is a stressful time for so many, but the end of lockdown means it’s time to protect the little guy. Most small businesses don’t have the credit and capital to weather such a pandemic, and being closed for weeks (or even months) has and will be devastating for hundreds of thousands more.
Many Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have been crippled by the COVID-19 crisis, and while governments, foundations, and nonprofits are all dashing to the rescue, there is only so much they can do. The saving grace here is that it’s easy for anyone to help small businesses stay afloat through thoughtful consumerism and local support.
Why Support Local?
Small, locally-owned businesses are the backbone of our country’s economy, yet are more likely to suffer from the COVID-fallout than others in the private sector as they have much smaller coffers to sustain them.
MSMEs represent up to 70% of jobs in developing countries and around half of their GDPs. They also create entrepreneurship opportunities, encourage growth and innovation, and provide employment and support the local economies, communities and neighbourhoods, yet as the world moves from shutdown to recovery, they will still be facing severe adversity. This will come from a combination of threats created by shutdown impacts, containment measures, supply chain disruptions, demand depression, production constraints, financial access and policy uncertainties.
How you can help
As of right now, private and public players worldwide are fast introducing initiatives to support financial institutions and MSMEs in the face of pandemic repercussions, but it is just as important for YOU to assist in retaining jobs and putting the economy back on its feet.
- CHOOSE CREDITS OVER REFUNDS
If COVID has prevented a company from providing the product or service you ordered, rather choose a credit than demanding a refund if possible. This might be the difference between them making rent this month or not. Have an appointment coming up that you won’t be able to honour due to quarantine? Try to reschedule and not cancel if you can as a courtesy to your local business owner.
2. DELAY THE PURCHASE
Gift vouchers are a great way to support local business. They provide them with the income they desperately need and just delays a service until the business reopens. Enquire at your favourite restaurant, store, hair salon, spa, childcare provider or hardware store. While you’re at it, why not purchase an extra gift card as a gift for a friend?
If you have a ticket for a performance or event that has been cancelled because of the pandemic, you can decide to donate it to the organisations or artists involved rather than asking for a refund. If you or your child have already paid for a class that was cancelled, instead of a refund, donate that lost money to the business to show your support.
3. GET ONLINE
Posting reviews of your favourite small businesses is a great way to provide emotional support in this difficult time and lets them know you appreciate them. This can also drive traffic and help boost their online presence.
Like, follow, comment, recommend and share posts and updates. Engaging with MSMEs through their social media is another great way to create awareness around their business and encourage people to #supportyourlocal.
Sign up to some newsletters to stay up to date with news or promotions, and to make it easy for business owners to notify you of changes.
Many small businesses have altered their services to meet customers’ needs and keep themselves solvent. So, be flexible and have a look to see which of your service providers are now provided online. From products to mobile services, through videos or online conferencing.
4. KEEP SHOPPING
Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if you could be ordering through a locally-owned business instead to help keep them going. Consider buying your coffee grounds from your local coffee shop instead of the grocery store, or (when you’re able to) purchase beer, wine, and other spirits from your a favourite brewery or farm.
With dine-in establishments temporarily restricted in most cities and towns, take-out and delivery have become most restaurants’ sole source of income. You might have more free time to cook your own meals now more than ever, but if your finances allow – try to support a local restaurant every now and then. Also, make sure to tip well seeing as staff are no longer receiving service charge during lockdown.
You can also check for other delivery options at your local toy store, flower shop, bookstore or clothing boutique who may not have their usual storefront, but may be providing delivery or curbside pickup.
Looking for fresh produce? Don’t forget your local farmers. Due to the temporary closure of fresh food markets across the country – farmers are sitting with full crops and products available. Look for a website or social media page to find out what fresh produce they have to offer.
5. SUPPORT WORKERS
Many retail and restaurant workers live from paycheck to paycheck, and being out of work for even just a week or two can put them in grave financial danger. If you use a service regularly like cleaning people, a hairstylist, nanny or others, consider paying them as usual if you are able, even if you are not able to use the service at this time.
Make a contribution to a local charity or community foundation that provides emergency relief funds to displaced workers. You can also look at one of the many community crowdfunding campaigns that are springing up to help locally owned small businesses. You might even find that your favourite locally owned business has their own crowdfunding website.
6. SHARE YOUR SKILLS
Are you a website designer? Developer? Social media guru? Sharing your expertise or offering free consultations is a great way to help struggling businesses, help generate more leads or market their business. Know how to build a website? Help someone build an eCommerce website for a brick-and-mortar business that cannot operate under current circumstances.
What this all boils down to is considerate consumerism. If you need to buy something, considering buying products and services from your local stores first. Small businesses are hurting more than most, and it’s up to us as a community to do whatever we can to help our neighbours.
The devastating reach of the COVID pandemic is vast and its economic impact is dire. It is imperative we start these processes as soon as possible. Whether it’s with monetary support, volunteering your talents, or even just ordering in, every bit counts.
Together, we can help keep our favourite local businesses afloat