Guest Comment: Local spending is more important than ever
While the end of 2020 is nearing, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect the local business community for months, and perhaps even years, to come.
Beyond the many changes implemented to keep employees safe and their companies operating, business owners have also had to respond to a shift in spending habits.
Consumer preferences have transformed due to the pandemic. Online spending increased greatly as people spent more time at home. In fact, a recent survey found that 45% of consumers say they do more than half of their current shopping online — nearly three times the pre-pandemic level. This impact becomes more apparent as we head into the holiday season, with the National Retail Federation reporting that 60% of consumers say they plan to purchase holiday items online this year.
Local spending is a powerful force for the small business community. Most importantly, this local spending ideology is not limited only to retail shopping. The need for spending our dollars locally extends to businesses of all types, from retail to restaurants to home repair to personal wellness.
Local businesses need our support now more than ever. That’s why the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce launched a local spending campaign, called “Nov(m)ember: Be a Local Spender with a Chamber Member.” The campaign highlighted this region’s many incredible businesses and urges our community to support local businesses throughout the holiday shopping season and beyond.
Spending locally offers many benefits to consumers and our community at large. Local businesses:
• Support our local economy. The money you spend stays in our community.
• Invest locally. Our business neighbors want our region to succeed and are invested in the well-being and future of our community. They are also more likely to support nonprofits and causes that improve our local community.
• Offer unique, handcrafted and locally inspired products that are unlike anything you would find among mass-produced options.
• Provide local jobs. The Florida Small Business Development Center reported that there are 2.5 million small businesses in Florida. Supporting the growth of local businesses also supports the growth of local job opportunities.
• Offer better customer service. You are a familiar face to local business owners, not just another customer or client.
• Make our community a better place to live. The character provided by local businesses helps make Southwest Florida a must-visit destination.
• Are our neighbors. You know the people behind the product or service, and your support helps them succeed.
Fortunately, there are many ways to support local businesses, including:
• Getting familiar with local businesses. For example, if you need a resource, the Chamber offers a list of local businesses at FortMyers.org/NovMember.
• Shopping, dining and utilizing their products and services.
• Purchasing gifts and gift cards from a local business for friends and family members, introducing them to a new service or product.
• Giving local businesses a shout-out on social media.
• Leaving a positive online review or a kind note of encouragement.
• Shopping online at local businesses and utilizing their safe pick-up options.
This year has been challenging for businesses across all industries. Our Southwest Florida business community needs our support now more than ever.
For whatever services you may require this season — think locally.
— Colleen DePasquale is the president and CEO of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.