Without a doubt, the coronavirus is taking a toll on Alabama’s small businesses.
Governor Ivey has gradually eased many of the restrictions put in place to keep customers and employees safe, but small business owners say it may be months or even years before the local economy fully recovers from the pandemic.
That’s why it’s important this holiday season to make a point of shopping small.
Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and that’s a great reason to bypass the chain stores and support locally-owned shops and restaurants, but small businesses need our support every day.
Small business is the backbone of our economy, making up 99.4% of all employers in the state. And while it makes headlines whenever a big corporation adds a few hundred jobs here or there, small businesses are responsible for a net increase of 23,841 jobs statewide in 2019, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Small businesses were doing well at the beginning of the year. Since spring, however, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, while employers have had to learn new safety procedures and invest in additional equipment from hand sanitizer stations and face masks to plastic shields at the checkout. Some small businesses intended to close temporarily and wound up closing for good.
When my association, the National Federation of Independent Business, surveyed its members nationwide last month, most thought the local economy would rebound to pre-COVID levels in 2021, but nearly one-third didn’t think things would get back to normal until 2022 or later. And when we asked how long they thought they could stay in business under current conditions, 19% said seven months to a year, while 15% said three to six months and 3% thought only a month or two.
We can’t afford to lose our small businesses.
NFIB is asking Congress to approve additional financial assistance to help local businesses avoid layoffs and keep the lights on until the pandemic is past, but there are simple steps everyone can take to help small businesses get through this:
- We can shop local and shop small – not just on Small Business Saturday and the holiday season but year-round. National brands make a big deal out of their holiday sales, but local shops and restaurants offer deals – and exceptional personal and friendly service – that you won’t find at the chains.
- If you can’t shop in person or want to avoid crowds, shop small businesses online or order by phone and take advantage of local delivery or curbside pickup. Or buy gift cards and gift certificates you can redeem once things get back to normal.
- Remember that all kinds of eateries – from pizza places to fancy sit-down restaurants – offer take-out and, increasingly, delivery. If you want to sit down with your family and friends at your favorite restaurant after the pandemic is over, you must support them now – and don’t forget to tip your server or delivery driver.
This is a trying time for Alabama’s small businesses, but they’re working every day to deliver the goods and services to their customers, provide jobs for employees and support their local community. Small businesses are implementing the safety protocols issued by federal and state officials and they are showing a real determination to get through this. Please join me and shop local and show your support for locally-owned businesses.
Rosemary Elebash is the Alabama director of the National Federation of Independent Business.