"It's time to face the fact that PPP didn't work," said billionaire investor Mark Cuban on Twitter on May 17, referencing the Paycheck Protection Program loans meant to support small businesses taking a hit during the coronavirus pandemic. "Great plan, difficult execution," he added. "No one's fault. The only thing that will save businesses is consumer demand."
Indeed, recent reductions in demand were more disruptive to small businesses than both recent problems in their supply chains and concerns about their employees' health, according to a survey of more than 5,800 small businesses by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
But with so many small businesses temporarily shuttered and a lot of recreational shopping still on pause until shelter-in-place orders are lifted, making a purchase from a small business might require a little more effort.
Here's how small business owners say you can help to support them as local economies reopen across the nation.
While Amazon and other online retailers make it easy to get almost anything at the click of a button, "it's important to remember to look local first," says New Jersey-based small business owner Deborah Engel, who founded a co-working space and day care center called Work and Play.
Spending money on local businesses "supports your own local economy and your neighbors who own the businesses," she says. Looking for a shirt to buy your niece for her birthday, for instance? See what local kids' clothing stores exist in your city, or even state, and try shopping there first.
Video by Courtney Stith
When you're looking at local options for restaurants, retailers, etc., it may be hard to gauge how a business you'd like to support is operating given shelter-in-place orders. But "don't assume a business is closed," says Engel.
"Call [the business], ask your friends and neighbors, visit their websites and inquire how they are open. Many are operating in some fashion, even if they are only selling gift cards."
Is your local coffee shop selling ground beans online? Could your favorite nail salon be selling nail care kits via curbside pickup?
Consider the businesses you love to patronize and email or call them to see what they're up to.
For those businesses that are open and allow you to enter the premises, remember to "comply with social distancing guidelines," says Engel. "Open businesses have the added burden from the state to enforce social distancing and mask requirements with their customers. Customers can help by following the guidelines."
When you follow guidelines, that's one less thing for the business to worry about: Your cooperation keeps everyone around you, including the business owner and the staff, safer.
Whether or not you can spend money at your local businesses right now, another way to support them is to write a positive review on Google or Yelp.
"We've had quite a few people who've taken the time to write very beautiful, generous reviews," says Stacey Rackham, owner of the Mint Hair Crafting salon in Royal Oak, Michigan. "In the future, people will be looking for [those kinds of opinions], and that is really helpful for word of mouth."
Plus, she adds, for the employees of small business that may be struggling right now, "it's good for morale."
If you find yourself getting frustrated as you wait for your favorite ice cream or barber shop to get back to serving you, "Be patient," says Engel. "Remember, businesses are working with skeleton crews, social distancing requirements, new policies and regulations, and new systems.
Customers may have an expectation that you can call and order something and 30 minutes later it will be ready. But with increased orders and new curbside pickup systems, response times may be slower as businesses manage their new reality."
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