MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The holiday season is here, and this time of year is usually a major financial boost for small businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, could impact how many people get out and shop.
The Alabama Retail Association reports that most businesses make a quarter of their yearly sales between now and the end of the year. For many small businesses, the next couple of months will be vital.
Sheldon Martin is the owner of Chantilly Boutique in Montgomery. Martin said when COVID-19 hit in the spring it impacted their busiest season, prom.
“When the schools shutdown, that essentially meant no proms and no balls, and that’s our biggest season of the entire year,” Martin said. “Being closed and not having all those sales took a really big hit for the remainder of our fiscal year.”
Name Dropper, a children’s clothing store in Montgomery, also took a big hit in March and April. Owner Brian Shroll said they’ve had to adjust the way they operate.
“We’re doing some more sales on the website and putting a lot of our inventory on the website. We also have customers that will call us and will do curbside pickup still that aren’t comfortable coming in. So we’re just doing whatever the customer likes,” Shroll said.
NBC reports that nearly seven in 10 small businesses see the winter holiday season as a top sales opportunity for their business. Some good news reported by the Alabama Retail Association is that 54% of consumers said they prefer to shop inside of a small store than a larger store during the pandemic.
“We definitely have seen the last couple of months, traffic really increasing and business really increasing,” Shroll said. “So we feel that’s going to probably continue into the holidays.”
“I think anyone would hope that people get out and shop local businesses,” Martin said. “The community is what carries us and when we do well in the fall it helps us to push towards the spring, and the holidays are a big part of that.”
On Nov. 5, Governor Kay Ivey lifted occupancy rates on retailers, entertainment venues and fitness centers, just time for the holidays. NFIB State Director Rosemary Elebash said this is an especially big win for small businesses.
“If you’re a very small store or restaurant, then you have been extremely limited about the number of people that you could have inside of your business," Elebash said. “With opening up to 100 percent capacity, businesses are able to reconfigure their space to make it very comfortable for their employees and customers to be inside.”
A new survey by NFIB shows COVID-19 continues to have an impact on Alabama’s small businesses.
According to the survey, released in Oct of this year, only 27% of small businesses have had employees take off work because of the coronavirus, but 80% have experienced shortages or shipping delays because of the pandemic, and least half say they would need additional financial relief to fully recover the economic shutdown.
“We’re hoping that the worst of 2020 is behind us and we’re looking forward to 2021," Shroll said.
Small Business Saturday is on Nov. 28 this year. Families are encouraged to get out and shop locally on this day to support small businesses. Last year, $19 billion was spent on Small Business Saturday that went to support thousands of small businesses across the globe.