There’s an iconic scene in the movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey runs up the snow-covered Main Street of the quaint town of …
There’s an iconic scene in the movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey runs up the snow-covered Main Street of the quaint town of Bedford Falls, euphorically barking hello to local business storefronts along the way.
That was an era long before Amazon and big box stores put financial pressure on those Mom and Pops, and long before the pandemic shutdowns piled on. Somehow, I don’t think Bedford Falls would seem as charming if George Bailey shouted, “Hello you beautiful Lowe’s! Hello Taco Bell – I’ll be back for my free Doritos Locos taco later! Hello Hair Cuttery! Hi there, empty storefront.”
Yet that is the harsh reality that communities like the fictitious Bedford Falls, as well as the actual Chestnut Hills and Mt. Airys and Flourtowns of the world, will face if we do not go out of our way to support our local businesses and restaurants, especially during the crucial holiday season.
It is too easy to sit at your computer and press “buy,” especially when shopping local can require taking some risk by being out among people. But local stores and restaurants have gone to great lengths and expense to create safe shopping and dining environments. Although COVID-19 case numbers are spiking again, it has never been demonstrated that the increases have come from shops or restaurants that require social distancing and masks.
According to an Associated Press article from last week, citing a report from the data firm Womply, “roughly one in five small businesses has closed.” In the same article, it was stated that Yelp has reported that “nearly 164,000 businesses on its website have closed since March 1 – 98,000 of them permanently.” That number would likely have been markedly higher if not for the government’s PPP loans.
Already, Chestnut Hill has lost several businesses permanently. As we head into the holiday season, support from local shoppers will be needed to prevent additional closures.
Alignable, the largest online referral network for small businesses, released its most recent consumer confidence poll (5,831 consumers conducted October 10 -14) that showed “45% of consumers shifted from shopping at local businesses to purchasing goods from national, online retailers when they were most concerned about COVID,” and “unfortunately the majority of those consumers have yet to shift back.”
Amazon’s recent (just this month) Prime Days sales hit $10.4 billion, up from $7.16 billion (45.2%) over Prime Day 2019, according to an estimate by Digital Commerce. It would be unrealistic to expect people to stop shopping online. But is it too much to ask people to at least try to shop local first for what you need or for presents?
Look through this newspaper each week. Instead of going to Chewy.com, can’t you check for what you need at Queenie’s or Bone Appetite? Instead of ordering Arby’s from UberEats, can’t you look through our Restaurant Directory and find a local place to support and go pick it up and tip generously? The fresh air will do you good.
Our local businesses are hurting and most are working harder than ever for less return than ever. And there is no end in sight. According to the same Alignable poll, although 32% of respondents claimed they were planning on spending at least slightly more with locally owned businesses during the holidays, the other 68% responded that they plan to spend the same or more with non-local online businesses.
The last three months of the year is the period most businesses rely on strong sales for their survival. So it is important for us to get off our couches, don our masks, and navigate our way, maintaining a social distance from others, to the shops and restaurants in our community that add the charm and uniqueness that makes our neighborhood a destination for shoppers, diners and homebuyers.