Social distancing, cancelled events, self-isolation,and working from home are supposed to help “lower the curve” of the spread of COVID-19, but it is likely to leave our local small businesses suffering. Without discounting the importance of public health and safety, it is also important to recognize that small businesses are going to need help to get through the pandemic.
Unfortunately, the virus hits us at a tough time for business on Salt Spring, especially those that depend on the seasonal influx of visitors. Businesses are typically ramping up to welcome visitors to the island, whereas now they are trying to figure out how to keep their staff employed, pay rent, keep the lights on and their doors open.
The Federal Governments announced a Small and Medium Business aid package, however we are unsure what that will look like for local businesses. In turn, individuals can definitely do their part.
Here are a few things we can all do to get our small business through this tough time while respecting public health and safety:
- Shop local online and off: Many of our local businesses offer online or phone order shopping. If you are not sure, take a look at their website and social media or give them a call. Many businesses are making considerable changes to accommodate social distancing and in small community spirit may be willing to work with you to ensure you get the goods you need.
- Buy gift cards to places you frequent regularly: If you frequent a small business regularly calculate what you spend in a typical week/month period and pre-purchase that amount with a gift card. It will allow the business to get the cash now and you can redeem it for goods later. Purchase online or call in and pay for it over the phone by credit card if you are unable to go into the location. Remember when you are redeeming your credit, to do it spread out over time so that you continue to soften the blow.
- If you’re looking at spending some time at home, stock up (Don’t hoard!) on entertainment or materials you need to finish your projects or pieces of art: We are not sure what is to come as this pandemic progresses, but if you are still comfortable going into the local shops stock up on books and other entertainment, purchase the can of paint to finish painting your guest room, or get the art supplies you need to explore your creativity while you are social distancing and do this from our local businesses!
- “Go out for dinner”: One of the industries that will be most affected by this is hospitality! But on Salt Spring, your favourite local establishments are still open and have ramped up on cleaning measures, are monitoring the health of their staff and are making most of their menu available for take out. Don’t stop going out, but maybe change how you go out. Get take-out, go at off-peak times or find a business that delivers.
- If you can, tip a bit more than you usually do: Though it doesn’t go to the bottom line of the establishment, it will help the serving staff keep their own rent paid, fridges stocked and lights on.
- Phone calls, emails, and e-transfers go a long way: Keep in mind that there are many businesses and services that do not require in person contact. Here are some examples: Accountants, bookkeepers, financial services, landscapers, web and graphics designers and many more.
- Focus on purchasing locally produced products: The Artisan and farming communities are two sectors that will be heavily affected over the next little while. Consider a weekly CSA box and look to purchase local food and artisan products as gifts if you are in need.
- Ask how you can help: Business owners know their business best. If you just want to help them out, give them a call or drop in and see how you can help them keep their business open and staffed.
It’s important to remember that we are all in this together. Just as we need to look out for public health and safety, we also need to look out for our small businesses through these potentially devastating times. Once we are through the pandemic, we will want to experience life the same way as we were before it, and our local businesses play an integral role in our community’s culture and identity.
Editorial Note: Read all official, current and ongoing updates on COVID-19 specifically related to Salt Spring Island on the Salt Spring Exchange under our News > 'Special Alert: COVID-19' News section.