LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Black Friday is days away, Cyber Monday will follow, and by this time next week, Americans will have pumped billions of dollars into the economy. This year, more than ever, it’s important to spend that money at locally-owned small businesses, said Jennifer Rubenstein, director of the Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA).
“It’s particularly important during this pandemic, when our small businesses have been disproportionately affected,” Rubenstein told Spectrum News 1. “If we want our community to retain its character, if we want to keep the jobs created by independent business, then we need to put a little more thought into our purchasing habits.”
Small business closures have surged in 2020, with nearly 100,000 closing down permanently, according to the latest figures compiled by Yelp. And those that have stayed open have suffered too. Nationally, small business revenue is down 23.2% as compared to January 2020, according to data from Opportunity Insights. Louisville is even worse off, with revenues down 25.8%. Meanwhile, business boomed during the pandemic at big-box retailers such as Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart, which broke sales records over the summer.
Earlier in the pandemic, small businesses could soften the blow of shutdowns and capacity limitations by taking advantage of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Act. But the program ran out months ago, and now, another wave of shutdowns is beginning. The holiday season, typically a major driver of revenues for small businesses, may not deliver the boost many of them rely on.
“Anecdotally, I’ve heard from retailers that about a third of their sales happen in November and December,” Rubenstein said. “That’s certainly significant and makes a big difference for their bottom line.”
Rubenstein is encouraging Louisvillians to spend their money at the local businesses that employ their neighbors, and LIBA is helping make that easier with several Small Business Saturday events on November 28.
In a year when people will prefer to do their shopping from the safety of their own homes, LIBA also plans to launch a portal to shop local and online. When ShopLocalLou.com launches in the coming weeks, it will let many local retailers list their products, allowing shoppers to purchase items from multiple vendors simultaneously. “Consumers can feel good about all the purchases they make and do it all in one transaction,” Rubenstein said.
Another organization, Buy Black Lou, is asking shoppers to use their dollars to support Black-owned companies in Louisville. “When we support local, Black and small businesses, we are supporting the growth of our communities and our neighbors,” Tanika Bryant, the group’s founder, said in a statement. “This year, it is particularly important that we be intentional about where and how we circulate our dollars to make sure our communities are benefiting.”
The group’s website includes listings of Black-owned businesses, and its Facebook group allows people to promote themselves.
In addition to asking residents to shop locally, leaders are calling for move relief from the federal government. “Additional assistance is needed from the federal government to help support small businesses,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement. “Please get in touch with your federal representatives to let them know you want action on federal relief. People are being put out of work by COVID-19. This is a time when we have to rely on each other, and the federal government has a role in helping to support businesses, families, frontline government workers, and others harmed by this pandemic.” rely on each other, and the federal government has a role in helping to support businesses, families, frontline government workers and others harmed by this pandemic.”