How to help small businesses keep going

Although it’s the big-name brands which get national, or even global, recognition, it’s the numerous small businesses which are the real backbone of any economy.  The UK has long been known as an entrepreneurial economy with a high percentage of small independent and/or local business and a large self-employed sector.  Much of that sector is currently feeling the pain of lockdown.  Here are some ways you can help.

Consider making voluntary donations

This may seem like a strange suggestion, but there are quite a few local businesses which exist to fund charitable activities.  At present, the most pressing need is arguably for donations to support animal shelters, which have lost out on vital revenue from sales of entrance tickets and merchandise.  The animals still need to be fed and so any donations would be appreciated, no matter how small.

Pay in advance for goods and services

If you regularly use a particular business which is currently closed, see if you can make an advanced booking and pay now.  To be fair, there is a certain level of risk to this since it depends on the business being able to reopen, but your payment will help to make that more likely.  If you don’t need goods or services yourself, consider whether or not you know someone who would and see if you can buy a gift voucher.

Hold off asking for a refund

If you’ve already paid for goods or services and the business has been unable to deliver them due to the Coronavirus, then consider allowing your order to be postponed instead of asking for a refund.  Similar comments apply here as to paying in advance, but if it’s a small order, it might be a risk you could consider taking as it could mean a lot to the business.

Try independent shops before you try supermarkets

Most people are probably in the habit of doing their main shop at a supermarket and then popping out to local stores when they need to top up on supplies.  In general, this is totally understandable, but right now would be a great time to buy more from independent shops if you can.  What’s more, you may even be able to arrange a delivery or an informal “click-and-collect” (more likely a phone-in-and-collect).  This could be much safer than braving the supermarket and certainly much pleasanter.

See if your favourite eateries are doing take-away and/or deliveries

Gatherings are banned, hence pubs, restaurants and cafes are all closed to visitors, but some are still doing takeaways and/or deliveries.  If you fancy a break from your own cooking and/or want to support local businesses, many of which need all the help they can get right now.

Try finding them online

It’s impressive and inspiring how many businesses have been making use of the lockdown to get active online.  Some have managed to find ways to carry on their regular business through e-commerce.  Others have found ways to leverage their knowledge to create new sources of income, for example through selling digital products or through recommending products which earn them a  commission through affiliate marketing.

As with the previous comment about trying independent shops before you try supermarkets, try looking for your regular local retailers before you head to the online retail giants.  You may be surprised at how much you can “shop local” from the internet. 

At the very least, you may be able to help them gain traction online just by liking, commenting on and sharing their content.  This shows engagement which search engines and social media platforms see as a very positive sign.