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Small Business Saturday 2020: How to support local businesses

Here’s how to support small and local businesses without hopping into neighborhood stores during a pandemic: Shop locally online.
A man looking at inventory and an iPad with bar graph data
Shopping and supporting small businesses is especially important this holiday season. Here's what to know and where to find small business retailers online.Getty Images

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Covid-19 has completely upended the shopping industry and smaller retailers have been hit particularly hard. In a recent survey, the Society for Human Resource Management found more than 60 percent of small businesses experienced revenue losses due to the coronavirus. Estimates from ratings site Yelp show more than 97,000 businesses — both small and major — have permanently closed over the course of the pandemic. And while Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday sales are dominating the current shopping landscape, with the National Retail Federation expecting approximately $760 billion in total sales over the shopping period, a roughly 5 percent increase from 2019. If you want to help direct some of that into the hands of small businesses, there are simple ways to do so, and the most important one is buying from them. Shopping small can help retailers who shuttered earlier this year and lost sales due to the pandemic, noted Jovita Carranza, who heads of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“There is a tremendous impact made when we shop at businesses in our communities – these are the locally owned mom-and-pop stores, boutiques, gift stores, craft shops and eateries that provide unique products and a personal touch,” Carranza said. “Supporting these businesses that are pivoting and retooling helps to strengthen, rebuild, and boost our economy.”

Around 75 percent of Americans say they feel more compelled to support small business as a result of the pandemic, according to a survey from Ware2Go, a UPS-owned company which helps businesses scale their production. And over half of those surveyed say their main reason for shopping small is the benefit to the economy. If you also want to get involved and send some dollars the way of small business, you’ve likely got plenty of brick-and-mortar options in your neighborhood, from the corner store to the beauty salon, where you can invest in both products and those businesses. And you also have plenty of online alternatives. To help give you a sense of those, we compiled some of the best options, from artisan marketplaces to larger retailers like Etsy and Amazon that offer small businesses storefronts with global reach.

What is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is on Saturday, Nov. 28, an annual holiday encouraging consumers to shop locally. Like Amazon’s storied invention of Prime Day, it was credit card giant American Express that started Small Business Saturday ten years ago. The date typically occurs at the start of the holiday shopping season, encouraging shoppers to buy their gifts from smaller brands. Consumers can find unique, handmade goods they might not be able to get at a larger retailer. Shopping local can mean personalized service, unique product offerings and greater levels of service overall compared to big-box retailers, said Steve Denton, the CEO of Ware2Go.

While the pandemic may have severely restricted in-person shopping, many smaller brands have pivoted to online stores, including selling on social media, using third party platforms, offering curbside pickup and introducing contactless delivery.

“So whether online, curbside, safely in-store or shouting out your favorite small business on social media, we can all help make an impact by shopping small, said Andy Goldberg, SVP of global brand management and planning at American Express.

Where to shop online during Small Business Saturday

Given various ongoing constraints to in-store shopping, advised Tom Sullivan, vice president of Small Business Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, check your local store’s website first for deals and discounts. If you’re looking for local brands but don’t know where to start, one resource might be Merchant Maps from American Express. Amazon and Instagram often highlight smaller independent retailers, too, making it easy to support local vendors.

In addition to buying, consumers can indirectly support local businesses by offering positive online reviews. Online engagement can drive traffic (and revenue) to your favorite local business, a low lift for you and a high gain to help businesses stay in business.

“We know that word of mouth goes a long way and is helpful for businesses to reach new customers and audiences. Sharing products from businesses you love on Instagram is super easy via DMs and Stories,” said Leigh Belz Ray, Instagram’s @Shop editorial lead.

Ready to start spending to support small and local businesses? Here are some marketplaces rife with options to safely and responsibly shop locally online, including how to shop small on major retail marketplaces like Amazon, Instagram and Etsy.

Amazon

The massive retailer’s internal Small Business Impact report argues that half the products sold on the site come from small and medium-sized retailers.

Bookshop

This online marketplace provides a platform for local bookstores to sell their collections with the reach of a mainstream retailer. The retailer promises that all profits are split among independent bookstores, giving 75 percent of its “profit margin to stores, publications, authors and others who make up the thriving, inspirational culture around books.”

Etsy

The reader-favorite online retailer, which provides a platform to uncountable independent makers and sellers and small businesses, is days into its Cyber Week Sales Event, which gets you up to 60 percent off across the site through Dec. 2.

Novica

Novica features products from artisans around the world. Products are hand-crafted and are typically based in specific cultures and traditions.

Novica’s offering a staggered sale during Black Friday, discounts depending on the total order amount.

Facebook, Instagram

The social media company launched Shops earlier this year in response to the pandemic, a tool for small businesses to create online stores on Facebook’s platform. Shops is accessible from Facebook, Instagram and the company’s other apps. Consumers can shop and buy within their account without switching apps. If you don’t know where to start shopping, Instagram also highlights some small businesses on their Shop account, said Ray.

The Product Boss

This product advice company created a Small Biz Shopping Directory to help consumers find products from smaller retailers. The directory organizes small vendors by product type, from hobby supplies and clothes to health and wellness and pets. Each vendor listing has a link to the business’ website so you can buy directly from them. The Product Boss also pushed shoppers to take the Shop 1 in 5 pledge, a promise to buy one in every five gifts from a small business.

Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Looking for the perfect gift? Check out the Shop TODAY Holiday Plaza.