According to the Small Business Administration, there are over 30 million small businesses in America, and about half of all American workers either work for a small business or own one. More important than these numbers, however, are the people behind them. Local small businesses are often at the heart of communities, giving customers individualized attention and unique products.

With the challenging year most small businesses have had, sales from this holiday season are more important than ever. Delivery, curbside pickup, FaceTime orders and virtual classes are a few creative ways small businesses have connected with customers since social distancing began in March. Here are some ways you can support the small businesses you love while doing your holiday shopping.

Buy From the Moms and Pops
If you need something, think twice before you start clicking away at big box store websites. They will weather financial storms better than smaller shops. This holiday season, make a conscious effort to give business to small stores that you would visit during more normal times.

Show Up Big for Small Business Saturday
Since 2010, the small business counterpart to Black Friday has been Small Business Saturday. It falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and gives customers a way to support small businesses in their neighborhoods while getting great deals on merchandise and services. This year Small Business Saturday fell on Nov. 28., but many businesses extend deals beyond the date. If you missed the event, choose an alternate date to shop local. Check in with your favorite shops to see what specials they might be offering for the holidays.

Spread the Word
If you hear of art shows that support local artists and artisans, share the news with others. Use social media to connect your community to your favorite local shops and get word out about great gift ideas or specials. Shopping close to home keeps funds within the city and strengthens the local economy.

Order From Chains if the Local Store Gets the Sale
If you are limiting face-to-face shopping this year, buy online from your favorite small business. However, if the local store is part of a bigger chain, make sure the local proprietor gets the sale. If not, find another way to purchase items, such as curbside pickup.

Take Advantage of Delivery
Some local stores are taking orders and payment over the phone and will deliver to your doorstep. This not only stops face-to-face contact but gives you a break from physically shopping during a season that is normally hectic.

Purchase Gift Cards for Future Use

Purchasing gift cards is an easy way to support a small business. Some are able to send a gift certificate virtually, so there is no contact in the gift exchange. If there is a business that you frequent throughout the year, why not purchase more than you normally would for this season? It will give the business a boost and save time later when you need a quick gift.

Check Out Merchandise Virtually

If a store is using social media and FaceTime to give customers virtual tours or customized shopping experiences, take advantage of those services. Call in or email your order to the store and then use curbside pickup or delivery.

Reach Out and Request
Want to do even more to support local small establishments? Call to find out ways you can give them your business during this unusual holiday season. Small business owners are getting creative, and they will probably be happy to share ways you can support them during this challenging time.

Purchase a Virtual Class
Does your child’s favorite music instructor or sports coach offer virtual classes? Sign up for one now. Are there any virtual subscription services you can order that will support a local business? Try them out! Some owners offer a discount if you buy several lessons in advance.

Leave a Positive Review
If you buy a local product and it’s amazing, leave a glowing review. If you get friendly, efficient customer service, talk it up on social media. People often make purchases because a trusted friend has recommended a business. Be that friend to small businesses this holiday season.

Contribute to Go Fund Me
Some small businesses have started Go Fund Me pages to help pay employees and stay afloat. Consider donating to one of these to keep your favorite enterprises operating through this challenging season.

In the spring, many small business owners were blindsided by the challenges that social distancing created for their businesses. In the spirit of the season, support them during the holidays so they can remain a vibrant part of your local neighborhood.

Janeen Lewis is a freelance journalist, teacher and mom of two. She is a nationally published writer.

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