Downtown streets won’t be crowded with shoppers Saturday, full on leftover Thanksgiving turkey and running off Black Friday caffeine.
This Small Business Saturday, local businesses are finding ways to meet customers outside the shop — with curbside pickup or delivery options available in addition to in-store shopping, hoping to curb the number of in-person patrons.
Small businesses are taking whatever steps they can to meet customers where they are, and it’s more important than ever as businesses are still catching up after months of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Businesses’ existence is in the balance,” said Jeff Griffin, CEO of the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a life and death situation whether that business is going to survive or not. That’s the reality of it.”
How to shop local this holiday season
It was the pandemic that forced Jeff Danz and his employees to get creative at Zandbroz.
It pushed them to finally create a website to sell to online customers — something most other Sioux Falls businesses were using before the COVID crisis.
They’ve completed orders over the phone for customers who don’t feel comfortable using the internet, sometimes even mailing pictures of products to customers before the purchase.
They offer curbside pickup and delivery options now.
And Danz has allowed some customers to shop privately in the store. One woman with cancer was able to peruse Zandbroz during closed hours with her daughter so she could still experience the holidays but without risk of exposure.
Zandbroz isn’t the only business to make major adjustments this holiday season. Several small businesses are encouraging online, phone and contactless shopping during the pandemic, Griffin said.
“Shopping local and shopping small doesn’t always mean you have to go in a store,” Griffin said.
But for those who do still want to shop in-person, most businesses’ doors are open. For Danz, the Chamber and other organizations representing Sioux Falls retail businesses, they encourage shoppers to spread their shopping out during the week and weekend to reduce crowds.
Although it’s still “Small Business Saturday,” many downtown businesses are having specials run through the weekend or longer, both online and in-store.
At Zandbroz, Danz plans to monitor the amount of people in his store on Small Business Saturday to keep crowding down. He’ll also be offering a 15% off coupon on their online store as well.
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Whether you shop online, over the phone or in-person — small businesses are willing to do whatever they can for their customers this year, he said.
“Let us know what you need,” Danz said, “and we’re going to do our best to help you.”
‘They might not be here after the new year’
This year, local businesses are hoping shoppers “keep the cheer here” — this year’s slop local campaign for the Chamber.
Shopping local keeps the money in Sioux Falls, and it keeps stores from shuttering its windows, Griffin said.
Normally, businesses rely on sales at the end of the year to make or break a profit. But now, businesses are playing catch-up because of shutdowns during the pandemic. They did well during the summer, but business has dropped as the temperature does the same.
The support just isn’t there anymore, said Sadie Swier, Downtown Sioux Falls community outreach coordinator.
And some businesses need extra support this year, she said. Businesses at Eighth Street and Railroad have been hit with compounding effects of the pandemic and the closed Eighth Street bridge to construction, which cut them off from direct traffic from downtown’s main drag.
“If you don’t try to support businesses now, they might not be here after the new year,” she said, noting that the beginning of the new year is one of the slowest times of year for businesses.
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Spending money on local businesses is important because they’re large employers for the Sioux Falls area and the state — with nearly 60% of South Dakotans being employed by a small business, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
And money spent within the community has several times the impact as shopping at places like Amazon.
“It’s easy to sit at home and do everything on Amazon,” Danz said. “I hope people stop and think whether we need to make a billionaire richer. Remember the importance of our local economy is based on small business.”