A barrista prepares a latte at Narrative Coffee in October 2018 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file photo)

A barrista prepares a latte at Narrative Coffee in October 2018 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file photo)

Editorial: Covid only upped need for Small Business Saturday

Locally owned businesses need your support to survive the pandemic. Here’s how to do so safely.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Covid-19 hasn’t canceled Small Business Saturday. Far from it.

The pandemic, as with nearly everything else in our lives, has complicated the annual drive to encourage holiday shoppers to patronize shops and restaurants in their communities between now and the end of the year. But the campaign has never seen its need as certain as now, if hundreds of thousands of small, locally owned businesses in the United States are to continue serving customers, providing employment and strengthening local economies into next year and longer.

Small Business Saturday, this Saturday, now in its 11th year, has provided a well-timed boost for locally owned businesses that depend on the holiday shopping season to turn the year’s ledger ink from red to black. That’s especially true this year as small businesses cope with the financial hit from the pandemic and the closures and restrictions that are now in a third and — with fervent hopes — final surge in Washington state.

A recent survey of some 1,600 small- and medium-sized business across the nation found that more than half — 51 percent — reported a significant decrease in sales since the pandemic took hold this spring, reports CBIZ, which provides businesses with financial, insurance and advisory services. The survey also found that businesses in the West had been hit hardest by the pandemic, as were businesses in the restaurant and lodging, arts and entertainment, educational services and transportation sectors.

Another survey, commissioned by American Express, which promotes Small Business Saturday, found that 62 percent of small businesses reported that they would need to see consumer spending return to pre-covid levels by the end of this year to remain in business.

Small businesses are vital to America and to your community.

Patronizing local independent businesses returns up to three times as much money per dollar spent, compared to that spent with chain retailers, according to a study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. For every $100 spent at an independent retailer, $45 is returned to the community in support of other businesses, compared to $14 for the large chain stores. For online retail, the return to the local community barely registers in cash registers: about a $1.

And for restaurants, $100 spent at an independent restaurant returns about $65 to the local economy, compared to $34 for chain restaurants.

Reaching far beyond their own communities, small businesses are vital to the state economy.

More than 630,000 small businesses in Washington state make up more than 99 percent of all businesses and support 1.4 million employees, about 51 percent of all businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy’s 2020 small business profile for Washington state.

In addition to supporting the economy, shopping locally:

Is better for the environment because many of the items you buy are produced closer to you and require less fuel for transportation.

Supports the public services in your city through the revenue from sales taxes.

Has intangible benefits as well, specifically fostering interaction and closer ties with shop owners, employees and other customers in your city or town.

But most importantly, money spent locally means more support for local jobs and local suppliers, which, in turn creates demand for other jobs, including teachers, first responders, medical professionals, construction workers and more.

Obviously, this year’s holiday shopping season is not what we’re accustomed to. Shopping locally during the pandemic will require some precautions:

While the state’s restrictions for restaurants have resumed, barring the dine-in option, many restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and other food shops are offering take-out and delivery service. And leaving a tip is always appreciated.

Most local shops have websites or Facebook pages that detail their products and services, which can be ordered online — as easily as ordering from the major online retailers — and delivered to your home or picked up curbside. A gift certificate or gift card is another covid-safe shopping option.

When shopping in person, follow the requests of owners and staff regarding the shop’s capacity, keep a safe distance — six feet at least — from other customers and use hand sanitizer — most shops provide it at the door — before and after leaving a store, especially if handling merchandise. And, of course, wear your mask and make sure it’s covering both your mouth and nose at all times.

And tell your friends. Encourage your friends and family to patronize local restaurants and shops during the holiday season, and make it a habit throughout the year.

By supporting the small businesses in your community — and doing so safely — you can ensure that you and the shop will be around for next year’s Small Business Saturday.

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