Note from the Author... I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that small businesses really do try harder. Often one person performs all functions of the business, including procuring or producing high quality products that they make with a joyful heart. All small businesses, including mine, need your business and need repeat business so they can stay operational and serve you in the best way they know how. My small business, Tina’s Sedona, has all the qualities one can hope for when shopping for small business jewelry. I ask that you find out for yourself and help others find my high quality artistic jewelry online.
The pandemic and politics have slowed down my husband and I in a number of ways in Utah. Having begun an "extended vacation" just over a year ago, our efforts to get acquainted with our community and explore local shops have pretty much been delayed. I am just now realizing that holiday shopping began for many people back in October while we have remained hunkered down awaiting election results and avoiding contact with the Covid-19 virus. I feel like I’ve just woken up from a dream and the holidays are practically upon us.
I'm wondering how people are doing their holiday shopping during a pandemic crisis in our country. Even more, how will they shop after the holidays are over and in the coming year? My first question is: Who is going into the stores to shop during this pandemic? As my list of questions has grown, I have ended up researching and putting together what turned out to be a little soul searching guide for shopping in this “season of pandemic” in hopes that its suggestions will help you decide what is right for you.
SHOP IN STORE OR ONLINE?
My first thought was whether or not people have decided to shop in the stores or spend more time, or all their time, shopping online this year. For us, stores are not an option. Early on, the amount of risk of contracting Covid-19 was, and remains, tied into our ages and our own health conditions. When the pandemic broke out in March we began planning how we would get groceries and avoid getting sick. We started doing that right away even though the surrounding area infection rates were pretty much non-existent here in this somewhat rural area of the country. We started to test out curbside pickup in different stores and got prepared for whatever it would take. We became accustomed to it for all our shopping and I don’t envision shopping in stores anytime soon.
By now you've likely identified your pandemic issues and whether or not you will venture out to shop. If you do enter a store, please wear a mask to protect everyone from whatever germs you might be carrying. Your mask protects others. Their mask protects you. This is the truth.
If you feel vulnerable in any way healthwise or you are uncomfortable wearing a mask, then stay home and shop online. Doing the right thing will help to slow the spread of this catastrophic virus.
KNOW YOUR SPENDING HABITS
My husband and I have learned much about our relationship to money during this pandemic. We were never much for going to restaurants because we are both great cooks! When we’re not hiking in the fabulous local scenery away from other people, we stay home. This has led us to spend more money on comfort food to fight the boredom of being home so much. The extra money we spend on food is close to the amount that we no longer spend in thrift stores which we enjoyed frequenting many months ago. We also spend a little more on materials to support our hobbies.
But that’s us. We do tend to be thrifty. Depending on numerous blog posts available on the subject, there are various names assigned to “types” of spenders with titles available if you want to actually name yourself. I am a “stasher” according to this blog post and my husband is a “neutral spender” in this other blog post.
Take your pick of either blog post, or find your own, to evaluate your spending so far during the pandemic and determine if and how that might be impacting your budget. If you want to know why you spend as much as you do, it’s a good thing to find out before you shop for upcoming holidays and beyond.
SHOP SMALL BUSINESS
If we take the time to look at our relationship with money and how we spend it, then it's probably worth our time considering where we spend it. This pandemic has forced many people to work from home, and even more to stay at home which, incidentally, contributes to more online shopping. With businesses forced to downscale or close, job losses have driven many of the unemployed into entrepreneurial mode creating lots of startups. There are also tons of online entrepreneurs with budding businesses, like mine, who need your support.
Where do you stand on supporting small businesses? Are you actively seeking them out? Small to medium business owners are a huge economic factor in our country. Some have brick and mortar buildings but many are online only. How do you find them and support them? Right now it's more important than ever to shop small businesses.
This pandemic, and future pandemics, are going to change much of how we do business. Small online businesses will be essential to the solution. How will you know where to spend your valuable dollars? Research efforts will help shape what type of shopper you are and where you invest your dollars in a post-pandemic economy. If you don't currently shop small businesses, start figuring out how to find them, how to find good ones vs. not so reliable. Ask around. Go to Etsy, Amazon. Ask for referrals from friends. Get on mailing lists of small online retailers, like mine, and follow them to see if they are a resource with whom you will spend money. Take the time now before you have need for a particular item.
GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Not everyone loves to shop. For those who don't, value may not be important and, honestly, there may be temptation to pick up anything in view, like "anything will do" just to get the holiday shopping over with. For those who do love to shop, be aware of your relationship with money and how that impacts your spending. As a “stasher”, when I start shopping, I automatically plan to get my money’s worth. I've made a list of things I look for in an online business, which is the only place I shop now. If you’re curious, these are some of the characteristics I look for in those businesses. I prefer stores that:
sell products of exceptional quality: made well, with good materials and excellent craftsmanship
most, if not all, customer reviews are rated at 5 stars
have reasonable & well explained return policies
provide complete product descriptions so you know what to expect and avoid online shopping errors
provide quick & easy payment processing
package purchases securely and ship quickly
provide discount perks like coupon codes and free shipping
a real plus is if they have a strong and current social media presence
To me, these qualifiers reflect valuable time the business has invested in representing themselves as a reliable, credible small business where every sale is important to its success. It demonstrates that they are working hard to earn my purchase. These things build trust that I’m going to have a great shopping experience. Why should anyone accept less than that when there is so much competition? Get your money’s worth.
In a perfect world, I would be able to find businesses and products that have all of these characteristics. Word of mouth can help when that's a priority for you. Ask your friends for recommendations. Look at customer reviews of the business. Read their product descriptions. Do Google searches to find out how established the business is in social media. This means they are actively building a customer base, and that includes you, who will either support their business as a customer or become aware of the business and tell friends who have interest in their product. So even if you don’t make a purchase, YOU can contribute to their success indirectly. Support a movement to feed small businesses!
Enjoy your upcoming Holidays and please stay safe by wearing a mask to protect others and yourself.