Today (Saturday, Nov. 28) is Small Business Saturday.
This year, more than ever with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important for customers to remember to shop at the area’s small businesses during the holiday season, according to the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Danville Area Community College.
Many small businesses make the bulk of their annual profit in the last two months of the year and this year is no exception. This year offers a unique set of challenges, but they can be overcome, according to the SBDC.
If someone doesn’t feel comfortable shopping in person, there could be online, curbside pickup and delivery options to shop; gift cards and gift certificates to buy for future shopping and dining; and special appointment hours to limit the number of shoppers at a time.
Vermilion Advantage Interim President and CEO Tinisha Spain said “Shop Local” is being said “even louder this year.”
“A lot of our retail are doing really well,” Spain said.
Retail sales comparisons show general merchandise is doing well, and home improvement sales are way up, such as lumber and home furnishings, due to stay-at-home projects.
Some areas that could use more support include eating and drinking establishments, apparel and gasoline.
Spain said there are a lot of unique small businesses the community can support throughout Vermilion County. Shoppers can find some personal gifts in exploring all the little shops in the county.
“The Pink Poodle in Hoopeston, that’s a gem,” she said.
“If you can purchase gift cards, order take out...,” she said. “We’re definitely encouraging anyone to shop local.”
“For some businesses, that can mean the difference of surviving into the next year,” Spain added.
One small business in Danville is Adventure Awaits Toys & Games, which Jeff and Brandi Hurley opened a year ago on North Vermilion Street.
Jeff said they’ve been doing what they can to attract more business and spread the word they are there.
“I’m sure it would be no surprise to most people that, even in the best of times, being a small business owner can be difficult and scary. You are always in competition with the corporate giants and what they offer: convenience, selection and oftentimes lower prices,” he said.
He said it’s a struggle for most small businesses to effectively advertise themselves, as this takes money they often don’t have in the budget.
Jeff said there can be many days where a small business has no customers coming in the door, and they have to figure out how they’re going to pay monthly expenses.
This too is in the best of times. During a pandemic, when many potential customers are afraid to venture out their doors, or don’t have money to shop because they’ve lost their jobs, it’s definitely a daily struggle, Jeff said.
“We’ve been afraid all year that we will be forced to close our doors for good. We wake up every day wondering if we’ll get any customers in for the day or if it will be another $0 day. There hasn’t been a single month all year that we’ve done the minimum amount of sales that we would typically need to survive. We’ve only managed to scrape by and keep the doors open because we aren’t paying ourselves. We’ve worked these last several months for free because we believe in this business, we believe we have a place in Danville, and we want to fight to keep it,” he said.
Now with the holiday shopping season here, he said they can only hope and pray that people will want to shop locally for presents.
“We’ve been doing what we can to try to attract more business and spread the word that we are here. We do weekly prize drawings for our Facebook fans. We run sales and promotions pretty regularly to attract customers. When push comes to shove and we’re desperate, we make a Facebook post begging people to come in. We have always asked our followers to shop local whenever possible. Not just with us, but all of our great local businesses,” Jeff said.
“We encourage people who can’t make it to our store for whatever reason to shop on our website, adventureawaitstoys.com,” according to Jeff. “We offer free shipping on orders over $75, free contactless curb-side pick up and free contactless delivery to the Danville area. Customers can even do a virtual shopping trip with us via Facetime or Facebook. They just simply set up a time, and I will walk them through the store using my phone camera as their ‘eyes’.”
Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said a lot of money is lost to the community with online shopping. However next year, the city will begin collecting local sales tax with online purchases.
“Many places are struggling,” Williams said about the coronavirus.
“Now more than ever if we can buy local, it could be the difference if a business stays open,” he too said. “I hope the people in Danville and Vermilion County consider that.”