Shop Small But Stay Home: A Guide

Crystal Jackson

Shopping small has never been more important. Small businesses (including gig workers and creators) may have suffered the most in 2020 with lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19 having a direct impact on finances. Some businesses won’t survive the economic devastation of this year. Many have closed already, unable to reopen their doors after they closed.

Small businesses need our attention so much more than big box stores. Figuring out ways to support them may take more time and effort than falling back into our previous spending patterns, but the impact of intentionally supporting local can be significant.

Every year, one in 12 small businesses will close. Thirty percent of businesses close by the third year. About half of businesses close after five years. To stay open in regular years can be a challenge, but Covid closures and restrictions increase the severity.

But shopping small as a consumer has become more complicated by Covid. It may seem safer to buy online than to go into a local retail establishment. But many small businesses have changed their mindset to one of safety — where masks, sanitizer, and social distancing are now inescapable facts to give customers a safe place to shop rather than an option that leaves it up to individual consumers to show consideration for others. Curbside pickup and online ordering options can also help make shopping local both safe and easy for both consumers as well as retail staff.

But as consumers, we also need to make a mindset shift to think outside the box when it comes to shopping small.

Shopping small isn’t all about just frequenting locally owned businesses in town—although that does stimulate the local economy by keeping more money within the community. Sometimes, local options simply don’t cover everything we want or need. If we still want to support small businesses, we may need to consider how to shop small even when we shop online.

#1 We need to broaden our definition to include artists and other creatives.

Many artists and creators have a website where you can purchase online and have your item shipped to your home. Rather than choosing a mass-produced artwork or home décor item, we can consider small business options for our purchases.

#2 Visit Etsy.

Etsy offers an online marketplace to support local businesses from the comfort of your home. From handmade items to custom clothing to art or home décor, there’s no end to the variety available.

#3 Shopping small also means supporting authors.

While there are a few best-selling authors who earn high income from their sales, most authors are actually running a small business—one with a surprisingly thin profit margin. Purchasing books from local or indie authors online can be one way to shop small which is often overlooked.

#4 When shopping on Amazon, consider small businesses.

If you do your research, you can easily find small businesses, businesses owned by women, and Black or minority-owned businesses to support on the site. It may take a little extra digging, but it helps support smaller businesses while still taking advantage of Amazon’s free shipping offers and convenient delivery.

#5 Check with local businesses about options for delivery or curbside pickup.

Instead of picking up dinner from a chain restaurant, consider ordering online and picking up for a local establishment. With local stores, ask if they have online shopping options for pickup or delivery. They may even have options to ship gifts to out of town friends or family.

#6 Consider purchasing gift cards from small businesses rather than big chains when gifting.

This could help support a small business while introducing the recipient to a small business in their area.

#7 Sign up for a subscription box.

While some subscription services have become a big business, many are just starting out, growing their idea for a subscription with a small number of customers. Research small businesses that offer a subscription box and consider signing up to support them. You can get everything from toilet paper delivery to self-care items to beauty products. The sky is the limit when it comes to finding a box that’s right for you.

#8 Give some love to your friends in sales.

We all know someone who sells a product from home. Whether that’s nail polish, makeup, jewelry, books, or nutritional products, home sales have become a great side hustle to supplement income. Each of those businesses may be a big business for the owners, but they are certainly a small business for the independent salesperson in your life.

While most don’t want to bother their friends and family, they do want to support themselves or supplement their income, and you may find yourself repeatedly offered deals or invited to online parties. Consider making a purchase—for yourself or as a gift—as a way of shopping small.

It’s easy to hit up the big box store or endlessly click Add to Cart on Amazon or through other major retailers.

With massive choices, big discounts, and alluring offers of free shipping, it can be easy and affordable to shop this way. But that doesn’t mean we have to forego our commitment to support small businesses during this time, even if we shop online.

It’s tough to be a small business owner in a struggling economy. Of course, it’s tough to be a small business owner in any economy. By showing support and shopping small, we do more to recover our economy than if we keep giving large businesses our dollars to the detriment of small ones. We may just need to use a little creative thinking to find a way to support small while shopping safely from our homes.

Change isn’t coming; it’s already here. Renewing our commitment to shop small businesses—or making an intentional decision to start doing so—could make all the difference for the businesses we choose to support. In fact, we can even go a step further and make sure we recommend them to our friends and family, leave glowing reviews, and help others discover the products and services we’ve come to appreciate.

With a little bit of legwork—and a whole lot of love for shopping small—we may help keep the businesses afloat and have a deeper appreciation for our communities.

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails:

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