This year has placed unimaginable challenges on the North Central Massachusetts small business community. The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented wave of disruption to our local economy which many are predicting will permanently alter how we make things, buy things and even where we work. The Chamber has always been a strong advocate for buying local and other initiatives that help to strengthen our local communities and contribute to the economic sustainability of the region. Our efforts to support local businesses take on a new significance this year, and we know that shopping local is going to be more important than ever before this holiday season. The small businesses that help define our local communities continue to face hardships as the pandemic goes on, and it threatens to exacerbate the trend towards online shopping and consolidation among many of these industries. However, there could also be opportunities for our local businesses and the regional economy as supply chain disruptions exposed by the pandemic may encourage consumers and businesses to look to local suppliers and local businesses to help them fulfill their needs.
Since the pandemic began, the Chamber has been focused on providing guidance, resources and a support system to help businesses get through the crisis. Recognizing the importance, the Chamber has developed several marketing campaigns to support small businesses and encourage consumers to shop, eat and visit locally. We have developed new locally focused content, new messaging and we are utilizing digital and social media channels to promote, connect and engage with consumers. The Chamber has also been utilizing its “Gift Local” gift card initiative to encourage shopping local. With nearly 50 businesses currently participating, consumers are given a choice when deciding on where and how they want to spend their money.
“Our restaurants, hotels and local retailers are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. These businesses are finding innovative ways to adapt, transform and survive,” said Roy M. Nascimento, President & CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. “We want to encourage people to support local businesses whenever they can. These business owners are working hard to keep their doors open, create jobs, and fill needs in our community and deserve our support”
The state has also stepped up with a new awareness campaign entitled “My Local MA” to encourage consumers to support local businesses. The Chamber has embraced the effort and is supporting the campaign.
“The My Local MA campaign reminds Massachusetts residents that where they shop, dine and travel matters,” said Keiko Matsudo Orrall, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. “Supporting My Local MA strengthens community pride and helps keep our economy running. Spending locally keeps people employed and keeps Main Streets and small businesses thriving in our 351 cities and towns. We want people to stay safe and put their money where their heart is — right here in Massachusetts.”
Why is this important? A recent survey conducted by the Chamber shows that 64% of the small businesses reported losses when compared to 2019, with nearly 27% reporting losses of 50% or more. Nearly 60% also reported that they expect it will be more than six months before their operations return to normal. Twenty-five percent of respondents also estimated they could stay operational on current cash flow and reserves for just six months or less. The survey also showed that marketing to reach their customers was the most requested resource when asked what resources, beyond financial assistance, would be most helpful.
It’s no secret that local small businesses have a tremendous impact on our local economy. When you buy goods and services from local businesses and merchants, the money you spend stays in our communities. National research shows that for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $48 stays in our cities and towns. That’s compared to only $14 of $100 that is spent at a chain and just $1 when spent at large e-commerce retailers. Those dollars support the essential services that we all rely on, including police, fire, schools, streets and more.
Local and independent small businesses are also more likely to give back to the community, create more jobs and opportunities, and support other area small businesses. They are often the first to step up when teams need sponsors and fundraisers need venues or goods. Small businesses also work hard to keep your trust each and every day, providing unparalleled products and services. All of this helps to strengthen our communities and contributes to our quality of life.
With the holiday season before us, there is no doubt that consumers are all thinking about shopping and the gifts they want to buy for the people in their lives. With busy schedules and the pandemic, it’s easy to consider turning to the internet to get shopping done. But that type of shopping has consequences on the local community. This winter is expected to be a difficult one for many small businesses, the Chamber will be encouraging everyone to consider local businesses when making their buying decision. Not only does this support local businesses, but it has profound rewards for the community.