So I just got back from visiting my San Marco shops. San Marco is an area of Jacksonville, Florida that has a small town vibe. The streets are lined with locally owned businesses, from gift and apparel boutiques to fine food and drink establishments. Some of these businesses have been in operation for 30+ years! I was chatting with one of the shop owners and we were discussing the nature of the industry. Covid seems to have put sales to a halt in most places, not to mention we are transitioning from Summer into Fall. Summer is usually slower, with everyone going on vacation, spending time with their kids and such, but summer of 2020 took the cake. It’s possibly picked up a little since a portion of our school age kids are back in school, but taking our normal reality into account and topping it off with Covid has surely made a difference.
I’ve had similar discussions with many of my shop owners because everyone is going through the same drought. Anytime there is an election year there is a stigma that retail slows down. Well not only do we have to deal with the repercussions of Covid, but it’s also an election year! My discussion today was a little different and I think it needs to be noted especially for our upcoming generations.
First, our buying patterns have changed. The transition to shopping online has increased and the types of things we are buying now are changing. With the set up of virtual home offices and student work spaces, office essentials have been a huge necessity and most big box stores have had a significant surge due to the heavy buying of products such as printers and tablets. Since this virus started at the end of the school year, people are focusing more on “stay-cations” instead of traveling. This means boat sales and other activity driven purchases have had a surge. This also means that our normal pit stops for gifts and clothing have seen even less business than they normally would have in this heatwave. There are less birthday parties, weddings, and social gatherings in general so less gifts to buy. Some of these things have been postponed and some have just been cancelled.
Second, our independent retailers have had to adapt to getting more “social.” Many of these retailers have had to learn the ins and outs of social media and e-commerce in a heartbeat and they have adapted well to the changes. Many find it too overwhelming and have such a loyal customer base that they continue to depend on. Those that have adapted and grown will rise to the top because they have their loyal customer base, but have reached a new audience that will continue to benefit them when things normalize again. The millennial generation is a huge portion of this audience, and the target demographic that they need to reach in order to build back up again.
Finally, if online shopping wasn’t a competitor before, it certainly is now and this is making it even harder for the shops and restaurants in our community to make it. We can get store bought meals and groceries delivered to our doors and we can order anything else we are looking for online in a pinch. One thing that I’ve heard and have noticed from experience is if you actually take the time to look at your local boutique’s Facebook page or website, you’ll get your order faster from them than shopping on Amazon. Many stores and restaurants are doing local delivery, so why not give them the business instead? They feed their families this way and in turn they give back to your local economy. Many smaller apparel stores are allowing try on in their dressing rooms and have put extra cleaning practices into place to make it safe for you. I guarantee these stores aren’t very busy and you’re likely to be 10 feet away from any other individual that might be shopping. Also, why not help the environment a little. When you get a shipment, there are so many times that the packaging is so wasteful, not to mention pollution coming from these big delivery trucks.
There is so much more that can be discussed, but I want you to take away the main point in this nutshell of a post. If you haven’t started, please support your local businesses and if you have started, please continue to do so! They offer personalized shopping experiences and more advice than a standard Amazon review. They bring products into their stores that are quality driven and unique and they spend countless hours doing this just for you! Many stores have gone into savings to stay afloat, some have closed, and some don’t know how long they can hold on. Some haven’t been able to get any financial assistance, while many bigger corporations have received hundreds and thousands of dollars.
For those who are shopping and have the income to support extra purchases, I hope you’ll take shopping local into consideration the next time you open up your browser to search for something. Support your friends and neighbors who have exactly what you need instead of buying from big box or big e-commerce. I guarantee they won’t notice the difference but you know who will!