Ahead of Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28 and the holidays, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. has introduced a new campaign called Support Local. Running from Nov. 30 to March 31, 2021, the campaign encourages Michiganders to shop, eat, and travel within the state during the holidays and beyond.
The Support Local initiative will roll out social and digital media blasts, radio and print efforts, and billboards over the coming months. Resources on the campaign’s web page — michigan.org/supportlocal — include links to downtowns across the state with specialty stores providing apparel, décor, hardware, craft beverages, and more; local grocery stores and restaurants; and deals at attractions, resorts, and hotels. The website also highlights events supporting small businesses across the state. The MEDC is collaborating with the Small Business Association of Michigan, Michigan Retailers Association, the Restaurant and Lodging Association, and more for this campaign.
This comes at a time when small business support is crucial to keeping them afloat during the pandemic. According to the Michigan Retailers Association, Michiganders sent $18.5 billion to out-of-state retailers in 2017 alone. And if one in 10 out-of-state purchases were switched to local stores, Michigan’s economy would get a $1.2 billion boost, creating more than 10,000 new jobs.
Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, a division of the MEDC, spoke with Hour Detroit about how small businesses in the state are coping during the pandemic, why it’s important to — safely — shop local now and always.
Hour Detroit: How are Michigan small businesses faring now and what are your predictions for them moving into 2021?
Dave Lorenz: Well, I never have a crystal ball, but I can tell you from talking to these small businesses, retailers, restaurants, and such that they are holding on. They’re barely holding on right now. They’re going into what for many of them is the slowest time of the year, just after the holidays. Just after Christmas, I should say, it’ll get slow. And that’s the typical cycle normally. They would have had a very successful summer, but with restrictions, they didn’t have a successful summer. Of course, they weren’t allowed to operate for a little while. Then with restrictions to the number of people you can have in stores and such, it’s harder for them to make the margin they need. People might be surprised at the relatively small margin most retailers have; they’re making pennies on the dollar quite often. When it comes to predictions, I am sorry to say that if people don’t do what we’re asking of them, we’re going to see some drastic change in the way our communities look. We know that roughly 60 percent of small businesses that have gone out of business already during COVID don’t expect to come back. There’s nothing to make us think that that’s going to get any better. So, we need to keep on doing our part.
What are your hopes for this year’s Small Business Saturday?
I do desperately hope that Small Business Saturday becomes Small Business Season, Small Business Winter in Pure Michigan. Because this is going to be more than one day; this is going to be a time that goes for a while. And I hope for a long while that people have this better awareness of their impact on their local communities. [I hope] they are more intentional about how they shop, how they dine, and how they travel.
For those who are hesitant to shop local versus purchasing from a major corporation, how would you encourage them to support a small business instead
Well, it’s obvious that if you look at how many people have not necessarily changed their habits to help local businesses, that most people simply aren’t aware of the value of them supporting local businesses and the great need. When you support a small business, you are supporting your entire community. Try to be more intentional about supporting your brick-and-mortar stores because they are the heart and soul of your downtowns. You’re starting to see openings in storefront windows that we haven’t seen in some of our more successful communities in decades. That’s going to continue to get worse if we don’t do all we can to support them now.
What are the safest ways people can support small businesses while also following COVID-19 state mandates?
The thing that I recommend people do is, know before you go. Just so you’re not maybe wasting a trip, but also so that you can be prepared before you go either on a holiday or a weekend getaway, or just going to the local store. You can go to that local website or you can go to michigan.org, which is a great resource for all travel-related information, and then search around. Find that a store you may be looking to go to or that restaurant, find out what they’re doing to accommodate your needs. And of course, the big one is taking The Pure Michigan Pledge. Then you’ll know the simple things like wearing a mask, keeping your hands clean, staying home when you’re sick, distancing whenever possible, these types of things. The combination of knowing before you go, taking The Pure Michigan Pledge, and keeping your money and your time in Michigan this winter — those three things combined can change the world for businesses and for employees in Michigan.
For more on the Support Local campaign, visit michigan.org/supportlocal.