As the holiday season was about to begin, Washington retailers were hit with severe restrictions – or for some businesses, complete shutdowns – as the state grapples with a rapidly expanding pandemic.
With already tough times in our lower Columbia Basin, the new restrictions arrived as local retailers are experiencing high expectations – and high anxiety – because holiday sales can make or break an entire year of their hard work.
In recent years, the post-Thanksgiving dinner shopping scene featured big box stores open on Thanksgiving Day and long lines inside and outside stores in the pre-dawn hours of Black Friday. Shoppers also packed restaurants. The festive sales continued throughout the Thanksgiving weekend as consumers poured out cash and used credit cards to purchase gifts for family and friends. After Black Friday, retailers kept the momentum going to attract valued customers as they continued kicking off the holiday shopping season with the national Small Business Saturday event.
The excitement returns locally, just like the light display at Longview’s Lake Sacajawea. But this year, the lights illuminate what feels like an alternate dimension – a strange and unfamiliar scene for not only families, but shopkeepers and shoppers.
Family gatherings will be smaller or nonexistent. It may seem easier to shop online and dine at home as stores and restaurants across our region are in critical condition, suffering their own special economic pandemic.
The store owners and employees who know your name, know your family and know your favorite products and shopping patterns along with your most personal likes and dislikes, are in dire straits and need our help.
Our local businesses need some CPR – Consumer-Powered Rejuvenation – this holiday season. These family-owned or family-managed enterprises need us to resuscitate them and help get them through these tough times.
“I’ll just be thrilled if people show up for their Christmas shopping with us,” Katie Rose of Kitsch on Commerce told The Daily News last week.
She and other local businesses are bracing for a “completely different ballgame” because of the pandemic, Lindsey Cope, vice president of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council, said in another interview.
“Small Business Saturday this year is less about the one day and more about a total kickoff of trying to do your holiday shopping in whatever capacity that might be,” Cope said.
Joanna Apslund of JoJo and CoCo Boutique in Longview is experiencing an outpouring of support from her customers.
“We’ve had a lot of people come in and say they are doing their shopping local this year,” she said.
Cope requests consumers “do a little more work” and remember how well their local businesses treat their customers and pay it forward by supporting their establishments.
Each purchase helps a local business stay open, which is harder now than before after months of struggling with a pandemic-shaken economy, Cope said.
Local consumer efforts this holiday season “could make the difference between mass vacancies downtown and additional mass unemployment down the road,” she said.
This week we can be thankful for the strong work ethic, family traditions, great products and services and entrepreneurial spirit of our local economy.
How can we express this gratitude?
Order local and ask for pickups.
Share stories about great local businesses on social media.
Refer friends and relatives to local businesses and restaurants.
If you are angry about restrictions, do something about it. Take extra steps, perhaps by spending more money at the businesses most affected by the restrictions.
As Cope reminds us, consumer actions this winter are critical to the health of our communities this holiday season, and in the years to come.
“When you shop where you live, not only does it affect the bottom line of that business and their ability to keep their doors open and feed their family, but also you’re helping yourself. You’re keeping taxes local, your keeping our cities running.”