Supporting Local Businesses During This Gift Giving Season

Supporting Local Businesses During This Gift Giving Season

Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Christmas shopping: a golden opportunity to help our struggling small businesses

Bernardo Cellini, The Mike Contributor

The Christmas holidays are just around the corner, for many this means coming together as family and friends to celebrate this jolly festivity. It’s a great time to relax, enjoy good company and get together with loved ones we may not see throughout the year. However, before all this happens, the weeks preceding the holiday’s are often filled with frantic last-minute shopping sprees for gifts and decorations. 

Traditionally we may have chosen stores and malls to carry out our shopping. Though, after sitting at home all year and having grown used to doing much of our shopping online, we may be tempted to repeat the feat: scroll through the endless articles on sale, click purchase and expect the item at our doorstep in a day or two. It’s a habit that many already practiced, but for others, with lockdowns in place, social distancing measures, and even classes becoming digitalized there was little choice but to get used to ordering online.

During lockdown, we’ve kept busy by purchasing from Amazon, watching TV shows on Netflix and browsing on Google; unsurprisingly, while the world seems to be falling apart, corporations have been releasing record numbers this year. The S&P 500 has been driven up 50% since March with Apple, Microsoft and Amazon each up between 33% and 72%. What’s been making more money than anything is Big Tech; with financial markets soaring, the pandemic seems to have been a godsend for stakeholders. But, there is always two sides to a story.

As Amazon prepares for an unprecedented possible record of $100 Billion in revenue this 4th quarter, small businesses across Canada are busy worrying if they’ll be able to survive another month under the harsh measures implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19. Small businesses are bearing the brunt of this pandemic. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has published a report claiming 158,000, or 14% of all small businesses in Canada could be lost depending on how the recovery goes. This report was made back in July and in early November new measures are still being issued: banning indoor dining, curfews, and client capacity limitations. The message is clear: there is no end in sight for the struggle of small businesses to stay afloat. 

It is important to remember that although small businesses are indeed small, altogether they represent an enormous share of Canada’s economy.  In 2018, 8.4 million Canadians were employed by small businesses totalling 70% of all private labour. Small businesses are our friends, neighbours, parents and colleagues; it is imperative that we support them. Lucky for us, Christmas shopping offers us a golden opportunity to help those who’ve borne the heaviest burden of the pandemic in the commercial sphere. If Christmas is known as a time to give and care, by purchasing gifts from small businesses we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to double our capacity to give: this year by purchasing from small businesses we are giving twice with every gift. A single purchase from a small business goes a long way in helping them stay open.

After a year spent buying from online mega platforms like Amazon, visiting our small businesses can also be a great way to rediscover the old-fashioned benefits of buying local. When you spend a dollar in a small enterprise, that dollar is more likely to be invested in local development and jobs allowing for your area to prosper and maintain its character. Small businesses are often more sustainable than options online. These businesses are frequently manufacturing their own products, there is greater transparency in ingredients and materials used – not to mention that by eliminating the shipping process, we generate fewer emissions and minimize waste in plastic and paper packaging. Lastly, a human interaction with a salesman is always a more pleasant experience than pixels spelling out “thank you for your purchase” on your checkout screen.

Understandably, some of us university students are infamously flat broke and before worrying about the fate of the handicraft store next door, we’re busy saving up to pay for next semester at U of T. Thankfully, for those of us or short on funds or not celebrating Christmas, there are ways to support small businesses for free. Writing a positive review, telling friends and family about a business you like, or engaging in their social media presence is a generous gift for small businesses in this gift giving season.