Economic developers encourage shopping small as COVID-19 continues to hit businesses

Economic developers encourage shopping small as COVID-19 continues to hit businesses
Shoppers on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Holiday shopping looked drastically different this year. The big question is, will this season’s shopping trends be enough to help area businesses hurting from the coronavirus pandemic get back on their feet?

“I think it’s going to take everybody, all in, understanding that local needs this help,” Susan Payne with the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville said.

Payne says COVID-19 has cut average business revenue in the downtown area this holiday season in half compared to previous years. She says part of the decrease in spending comes from COVID-19 work-from-home measures.

Tourism, or lack thereof, has also impacted the downtown scene.

“Tourism is a good generator of traffic downtown, as well. Historic homes are not open, the university, etc. So people are not visiting as much as they were before,” Payne said.

Jennifer Schmack with Albemarle County’s Economic Development Office says shopping at small between can help them on the journey to economic recovery.

“A dollar spent at a local business has three times the impact as a dollar spent at a national retailer,” Schmack said.

However, COVID-19′s financial impact this holiday season will not be known until well into 2021.

Some businesses have gotten creative with outdoor dining and online ordering to stay afloat. Schmack said that, and getting customers to stay away from big box stores when possible, can make a difference.

“It boils down to buying local, shopping local, and keeping it here in our community,” Schmack said.

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