JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the holidays approach, millions of small businesses across the country are still recovering from the impact of COVID-19.
American Express predicts roughly 46% of small business owners are hoping for above-average holiday sales to keep their doors open next year.
The company’s annual Small Business Saturday -- following the Black Friday rush -- is this Saturday and encourages people to shop local.
“I opened in September 2018 and would not be here, especially with the pandemic, without the support of the community, my customers and friends, especially in the past eight months,” said Caroline Hurst, owner of Indigo Apparel and Accessories.
Hurst was forced to temporarily close her Avondale boutique in the spring because of the pandemic but re-opened in May. She said the past eight months have been stressful.
“I know at least 130 small businesses have closed here in the Jacksonville area,” explained Hurst. “I am still so grateful and lucky to be here.”
Hurst said she received a PPP loan and has adjusted he business over the months due to the pandemic. She implemented several safety measures in her store, including hand sanitizer on tables. She also started offering curbside pick-up and launched a website to reach customers at home.
On the same block, Christian Miller, owner of Blend Indoor Outdoor, described this year as a rollercoaster.
“We had to come up with new ideas like delivery and pick-up, all those things that helped us stay in business, but it was really tough at the beginning of the year,” said Miller. “On the upside, people are staying home more now and they are looking for more home decor so that’s been a good rebound for us this year.”
To support locally owned businesses like those in the Avondale area this holiday season, financial experts encourage people to shop small and help businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19.
“I would say in Florida we are very fortunate that our governor has let us be open, but even those businesses are in a very, very tight spot so whenever they can get any kind of revenue, it’s an important moment,” explained Bernie Dandridge, SBA USDA Business Development Specialist.
According to American Express, 75% of shoppers want to shop local this holiday season after the hard year.
“Anytime you can support a local shop, you’re making a dream come true,” said Hurst.
For Small Business Saturday, American Express is also encouraging people to show support for small businesses on social media.