Northwest Missourian Opinion

We’re always told to shop locally, but the importance of doing just that has taken on a completely new meaning in recent weeks. As COVID-19 continues to spread, a growing number of Missouri’s 532,277 small businesses are closing up shop — some until further notice and some for good.

The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations processed over 42,000 unemployment claims in the week ending March 21 — nearly 25% of the claims filed in all of 2019. As people are stripped of paychecks, businesses are stripped of customers.

While many are reluctant to spend money for fear of the recession ahead, it’s crucial to the survival of small businesses that we make every possible effort to support them during this time. Below is a list of 12 ways to support small businesses throughout this crisis:

1. Order Online

Many storefronts are closed, but businesses themselves continue to operate. Boutiques, bookstores and even some breweries have begun to offer new curbside pickup for their products as desperate attempts to keep profits coming in. Check a business’s website or Facebook page for information regarding its current services.

2. Order Takeout

Many restaurants have taken to drive-thru and curbside pickup options rather than closing completely. Order takeout at least once a week, making sure to celebrate #takeoutTuesday on social media. Save future trips away from the house by ordering several extra meals now and throwing them in the freezer to eat later.

3. Tip a little extra

While picking up takeout or another curbside order, make sure to leave a larger tip than normal. The woman running orders to the curb has children at home to feed, too.

4. Buy Gift Cards

Physically visiting many small stores is currently not an option. However, gift cards are largely available online or upon request. If able, do some Christmas shopping and purchase gift cards several months early. This allows social distancing to continue while funneling much-needed revenue to businesses in need, as well as sending the promise of a loyal customer planning to return once life returns to normal.

5. Don’t cancel memberships

Don’t jump to canceling things like gym memberships just yet. If able, continue paying for these services even though they are currently unusable. Without regular income from memberships, the gym down the street may never reopen.

6. Take advantage of online services

The yoga studio may be closed and after-school piano lessons have likely been halted. With today’s technology, it’s possible for these and other service providers, including financial advisers, therapists, tutors and lawyers to offer services online. This ensures continued income as well as providing a brief distraction from the daunting boredom of sitting at home.

7. Reschedule, don’t cancel

At a time like the present, financial support isn’t the only thing small businesses need. They also need moral support. Instead of simply canceling things like haircuts, dog grooming appointments and yearly teeth cleanings, call to reschedule appointments for a later date. This reassures business owners of a loyal customer base who is ready to go right back into their regular routines as soon as the virus clears up.

8. Buy branded merchandise

The perfect time has finally come to buy the T-shirt that reads “Every butt loves a good rub” that hangs above the register at the local barbecue joint. Many places sell branded hats, mugs and other swag. Visit their online store or contact them directly to place an order. Go a step further by taking a selfie wearing this new shirt and post it to Facebook, making sure to tag the business.

9. Consider home repairs or projects

The children are home from school, so what better time to complete yard work and home projects? Contact the local power washing business to clean the siding, buy plants from the local nursery or order supplies from the hardware store to fix the fence. These projects will provide a good reason to get out of the house while still practicing social distancing.

10. Buy locally grown

At the grocery store, make an effort to buy things like produce, milk, meat and even beer that’s been produced locally—even if it is slightly more expensive.

11. Support drugstores

Places like Hy-Vee and Walmart will continue to see shoppers as usual, leaving them much better off than so many other businesses. Show support for locally owned drugstores by having prescriptions sent to the one down the street rather than these corporate pharmacies. Use the drive-thru if available, and consider spending a few extra dollars on small things like toothpaste and tampons.

12. Use Social Currency

If financially unable to buy products, consider leaving positive reviews describing past experiences with local businesses. Share the page’s latest posts reminding customers of curbside pickup options or even refer them to others. This word of mouth doesn’t cost a dime and goes a long way. This moral support will remind business owners that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Spread the word

An average of 67 cents of each dollar spent at small businesses stays within the local community, according to Business Wire. At a time like the present, consumers’ local impact could mean the difference between a business surviving the pandemic or closing up shop forever. Give the dozen things listed above serious consideration. Share this article with friends and family members, reminding them of the importance of supporting local businesses and encouraging them to do the same.

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