The pandemic has confirmed the critical role small businesses play in our daily lives. It sounds cliché, but locally owned small businesses really are the heart and soul of our communities. The holiday shopping season is a critical time for small retailers and restaurants that rely on sales growth over Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Not so long ago, shopping and entertainment at the local mall or the vibrant downtown marque was an American tradition. Brick-and-mortar stores advertise their best deals of the year, hoping to entice shoppers to buy, or at least browse, the shelves filled with merchandise. Today, online shopping has quickly become the preferred way for Americans to shop for holiday gifts. Given how dramatically the retail environment has changed over the past 20 years, these holiday scenes and traditions have the potential to become the realm of nostalgic folklore. Recent surveys show that more than 80% of shoppers shop online regularly throughout the year.
To better compete, small business owners have become very creative in the way they sell and promote their products and services. One encouraging development brought about by the pandemic is that many small business owners are shifting their operating models to include e-commerce platforms or altering product offerings to meet the new demands of online consumers. Some even revive retail traditions of the past by offering customers personalized one-on-one assistance and selling niche, locally produced goods. The number of home businesses is at an all-time high as people realize their dreams of owning a small business can start in their basement or garage.
The success of this year’s holiday shopping season will have a huge impact on Utah and the nation. It starts with small businesses on a Saturday and ends with the opening of the last cork on New Year’s Eve. Utah’s 315,000 small businesses continue to create two of every three net new jobs and provide essential goods and services in rural and urban communities. They employ more than 606,000 Utahians, give back to their local communities, and make this state a better place to live.
Small businesses are the backbone of our democracy and the solution to our most challenging economic problems. If you’re an entrepreneur and need some advice, consider exploring the tools and resources of the U.S. Small Business Administration and its partners. Organizations such as the statewide network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), online SCORE chapters, procurement technical assistance centers, and the two Women’s Business Centers in Salt Lake City and Cedar City are key to helping identify strategies to increase competitiveness and viability. Could be a changing business environment.
In addition to our official partners, small business owners can get involved with local support organizations such as chambers of commerce, business districts and community associations. These organizations are actively involved in coordinating events and promotions to drive traffic to their small business members, such as local fairs and small store/small restaurant focused festivals.
This holiday season, join us in purchasing at least one item from a local small business in your city or town. These business owners are true superstars in our community and deserve our support, thanks and appreciation. Happy holiday!
Aikta Marcoulier serves as the SBA’s Eighth District administrator in Denver. She oversees the agency’s programs and services in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Marla Trollan serves as the SBA’s Utah Regional Director in Salt Lake City. She oversees the agency’s programs and services across the state.