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  • Writer's pictureSarah McEwan

Christmas in July? An early holiday shopping season is one of the many changes forecast in 2020.

Small Business Saturday is the traditional kick off of the holiday shopping season for small businesses. In previous years, I would decorate my shop the day before Thanksgiving and prepare for a busy weekend with (fingers crossed) a crowded shop filled with customers and friends. The BordentownStrong Project team has been planning an early start to the season --- because we think some twinkle lights will cheer us all up --- and also because the data is showing that small businesses really do need to prepare and plan for an early, and changed holiday season.

Main Street America is a source many small business owners rely on for news, forecasting and advocacy. They've just published a post with some important data business owners need to keep top of mind while we plan - and as residents, it's important to remember just how critical the holiday shopping season is to our local businesses.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales represent about 20 percent of annual retail sales each year. That number can be closer to 30% for specialty shops - like hobby, toy, and games stores. Of those sales, online represented nearly 15 percent in 2019. Two surveys, from Google and Radial show that online shopping will increase due to COVID-19 concerns, and that a significant number of those surveyed plan to start their holiday shopping earlier this year to both avoid crowds, and spread out their budget for gifts.

Check out this number!! More than sixty percent of shoppers surveyed said that they will be purchasing more of their items locally. Love it!!

We as businesses owners need to help make that possible. Here's what Matthew Wagner, Ph.D. and VP of Revitalization programs at Main Street America recommends as top strategies for businesses to make it easier for shoppers to support them during this upcoming season:

Commit to Prompt Delivery: Be transparent in your delivery policy, as well as continuing to offer buy online, pick up at the store and/or curbside options.

Provide a Clean and Safe Environment: Highlight the work you’ve done to create as safe a shopping experience as possible. Be diligent with cleaning and the safety protocols you have in place for customers and employees. Consider offering or continuing special hours for shopping by appointment for seniors or customers at high risk for complications from COVID-19.

Utilize Outdoor Spaces: Business owners have worked hard to update websites and offer virtual shopping. Many of us still want to experience in person shopping, and if you have an outdoor space to make that even more comfortable for shoppers, take advantage of it!

Work Together: Can neighboring businesses share the expense and use of heat lamps to allow for extended outdoor shopping and dining? If you're having trouble financing inventory, could you feature an in-store pop-up shop to give an up and coming creative a chance to showcase their work? By working together we can create more exciting holiday experiences for the community!

Start Early: Since many of us will be shopping early, be prepared. Don't save all of your best items and deals for December, consider spacing those goods and specials out to give the early shoppers a chance to support you this holiday season.

So, let's work together as a community to keep the focus on our local businesses throughout the busy fall and holiday seasons. The BordentownStrong Project is ready to help! We're busy working on fun, virtual events for the holiday season - and are always here to highlight our local businesses to the amazing community who keeps us going.

Look for more updates soon - and if you have ideas or suggestions on how we can help make this season a success, we're here for it!

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