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VIEWPOINT: Small Business Saturday supports Main Streets hit by COVID-19 pandemic

By Bernard J. Paprocki

Date:

Bernard J. Paprocki (CNYBJ file photo by Eric Reinhardt)

While upstate New York has felt the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public-health crisis confirmed the critical role that small businesses play in our daily lives. Neighborhood restaurants, entertainment venues, mom & pop shops [on] Main Street, locally owned service companies, and any business where “in person” contact was the norm endured periodic closure and suffered financial hardship.

Locally owned small businesses truly are the heart and soul of our cities and towns; they give our communities their personality. It sounds cliché to call them the “lifeblood” of our economy, but small business in both upstate New York and America are big business. [The data shows] 99.9 percent of all businesses nationally are considered small. This upcoming Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 27. is our chance to thank these local heroes that struggled to survive over the last 18 months.

Small Business Saturday has catapulted into an American tradition, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. It’s a day to support our local economy. Brick-and-mortar businesses in downtowns from Manlius to Rome and Dickinson to Watkins Glen — and across the country — promote their best deals of the year in hopes of luring shoppers from online purchases. It was not that long ago when we’d visit our locally owned downtown retailers to purchase all their holiday gifts for family and friends.

Shop owners would decorate their stores with ornate lights and ornaments, or create elaborate window displays, to grab the imagination of a passerby to lure them inside their business. The holiday-shopping season was a magical time of year, and many of us still hold on to those fond memories today. However, these holiday scenes are becoming scarcer, passing into the realm of nostalgic folklore.

Recent surveys show that more than 80 percent of Americans make regular online purchases throughout the year. Online shopping skyrocketed during the pandemic as more people stayed home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many locally owned businesses, from retailer to restaurants, struggled to find new ways to compete with mega online shopping sites, delivery apps, and large retailers that remained open.

To better compete, small-business owners have become very innovative in the way they sell and promote their products and services. Some are bringing back the retail traditions of the past by providing personalized one-on-one assistance to customers, and the selling of locally produced niche items found nowhere else in town.

Small Business Saturday provides a huge boost to the U.S. economy when over 100 million consumers spend more than $20 billion at small shops and local restaurants. With increased consumer confidence in the economy, and a waning pandemic, this year’s Small Business Saturday looks to be even bigger and brighter.