Opinion | Shop local for the holidays

Support small businesses hurt by the pandemic this holiday season

A+new+University+of+Iowa+Merchandise+store%2C+located+on+Clinton+St.+is+seen+on+Monday%2C+Oct.+25%2C+2021.

Dimia Burrell

A new University of Iowa Merchandise store, located on Clinton St. is seen on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

Sophia Meador, Opinions Columnist


Have you started holiday shopping yet?

It’s hard to believe the holidays are right around the corner: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. The holiday season will be extra elaborate this year as people once again gather together in person to celebrate.

Unlike last year, we are also able to shop in stores again. Many local stores and restaurants suffered from a decline in sales because of COVID-19. This holiday season, shop local to support small businesses hurt by the pandemic.

The holidays are a time for family, friends, gratitude, and sharing, but also spending.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $789.4 billion at retail businesses in November to December of 2020. Despite the pandemic, sales grew 8.3 percent from sales in 2019.

While online sales skyrocketed 23.9 percent in 2020, sales in general merchandise stores fell .1 percent. Furthering this trend, sales in electric and appliance stores fell 14.9 percent, and sales in clothing and accessory stores fell 14.9 percent.

The uptick in online shopping last year should come as no surprise due to the pandemic. But with the success of the vaccine rate, availability of masks, and decreasing COVID-19 infections, consumers can shop in person this year.

Online shopping increased last year due to the pandemic, making big businesses richer. Amazon made roughly $106.5 billion in holiday sales last year, an increase of 27.7 percent from 2019.

While big businesses like Target, Walmart, and Amazon are convenient and affordable, it is important that we all return to local stores this holiday season.

In March, Iowa City Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird told The Daily Iowan that nearly 19 percent of downtown businesses faced serious financial strain in the past year, which resulted in either closure or finding new ownership to continue operating.

Sadly, for stores that closed their doors for good, holiday shopping will not bring them back. It is vital that we promote local businesses now before it is too late.

The Shop Iowa City is a women-owned, small business in downtown Iowa City specializing in vintage home decor, clothing, and gifts. A year and a half after opening, The Shop closed its doors due to the pandemic. After relying on online shoppers, The Shop has returned to in-person shopping.

“Love and support for each other makes everyone thrive. That is a huge part of shopping local,” said Jacy Fitzpatrick, an employee at The Shop.

Nationally, more than 200,000 businesses permanently closed due to the pandemic. Iowa City is alive and vibrant because of the small businesses that make the city unique. Without shoppers to keep stores running, Iowa City would not be the same.

The upcoming holiday season is the perfect time to support small businesses like The Shop Iowa City who are recovering from COVID-19 setbacks. If consumers turn to local business at the same rate as they did online and at large corporations last year, local business will thrive and grow — rather than close.

“You have to love your community and support them, so your home is a home,” said Fitzpatrick. This holiday season and beyond, shop local to empower small businesses that make Iowa City a home.”


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


 

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