(BPT) - While big businesses receive attention during the holidays for offers of free shipping, buy one get one free and other promotions, it's small businesses who are truly the heartbeat of local communities and help bring magical experiences to this time of year. From holiday lights in the center of town, to decorations and pictures with winter characters, receiving a warm smile and possibly a tasty delight from a local pastry chef while shopping at a small business brings holiday joy to all.
The 32 million small businesses in the U.S. employ nearly 61 million workers, or about 47% of the labor force, according to the U.S Small Business Association. But small businesses are also the most vulnerable, as sudden changes in fortune - like a recession, natural disasters or an unprecedented pandemic - can shutter many of them for good.
For boutique retailers and other small businesses who vie for consumer mindset, the holiday season can make or break them. While mass market stores and big brand online merchants continue to grab market share, smaller brick-and-mortar or local e-commerce shops often offer the most customized and unique holiday gifts. And it's up to their neighbors, in countless communities from coast to coast, to show appreciation by opening their wallets and providing local small businesses a much-needed fiscal boost before the end of the year.
With many restaurants, shops and other entrepreneurial entities still recovering from the effects of a difficult 2020 holiday season hit hard by the pandemic, small businesses need assistance this year more than ever and they may find it from unexpected places - in some cases, from big businesses.
For example, Wells Fargo has supported its small business customers and extended philanthropic support to the broader community throughout the pandemic. Efforts have included working together with more than 3 million small businesses across the country to help them get back to thriving, and the creation of its Open for Business Fund, a roughly $420 million recovery effort offering capital, technical assistance and long-term programs for small businesses. In preparation for the holidays, Wells Fargo's Hope, USA program will build on the bank's foundation of support by helping to beautify business districts in more than a dozen cities nationwide and encouraging everyone to join in giving hope a hand this holiday season by supporting small businesses and shopping locally.
Here are five ways you too can help to support small businesses this holiday season.
1) Do your gift shopping locally. While it can sometimes be more efficient to holiday shop at one-stop mass online retailers, it's more fun to window-shop for - and purchase - unusual gifts from local boutiques, pop-up stores or marketplaces. And if you prefer to shop online, there are many mom-and-pop e-tailers who sell a variety of specialty and craft products. Not only can an out-of-the-ordinary gift delight a friend or family member on your shopping list, so, too, can the story you'll be able to share about where and from whom you purchased it.
2) Leave lots of 'likes.' If you enjoyed your small business experience, take five minutes to write and post a review online, via Yelp, Google or other crowd-sourced business review sites and social media platforms. With limited marketing budgets, positive word-of-mouth may be the best way to help increase awareness of and spark sales at your favorite stores.
3) Grab holiday grub. While chain grocery stores are a great one-stop shopping option, they can't compete with local farms, markets, produce stands, microbreweries and bakeries for locally grown or produced treats. Whether it's locally ground cornmeal, grape-to-glass merlot from a nearby vineyard and winery, or mouthwatering schinkenbrot rolls from a German bakery, foods seem a bit tastier and drinks a bit sweeter when produced just down the road.
4) Shop kindly. If you are a fan of a local merchant's goods, buy a few more items than usual. You or a gift recipient will love the special indulgence, and the merchant will appreciate the additional, well-deserved business boost.
5) Purchase now for later. Supporting small businesses by purchasing a gift card is a great way to contribute to their immediate cash flow during this busy season. The gift of a gift card can also help small businesses win new customers down the road.Help make the holiday season merrier than ever for small local businesses. Your efforts may help them survive and thrive into 2022 … and beyond.