With so many people turning to online shopping because of the pandemic, this year’s holiday shopping season and Small Business Saturday will be critical for local entrepreneurs.
Small Business Saturday is a nationwide movement to support locally owned small businesses. This year it falls on Nov. 28, the day after Black Friday.
Rusty Worley, executive director of the Downtown Springfield Association, said locally owned businesses in downtown have taken precautions to keep shoppers safe and are counting on customers to remember them this holiday shopping season.
“This year more than ever it’s very important for people to allocate a portion of their holiday budget to supporting retail,” Worley said. “We know that the use of online sales has gone up dramatically this year. It’s been a convenient and safe way to shop.”
“But it’s also been a really challenging time for our local retailers,” Worley said. “If people want their favorite stores to be around this time next year, they really need to support them in this fourth quarter and through their holiday sales.”
In an effort to entice shoppers to visit downtown — as well as help local artists — the Downtown Springfield Association is hosting the Queen City Craft Show on Small Business Saturday.
The craft show will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at 401 South Ave. It will feature about 30 artists and crafters.
Admission is $5 and swag bags will be given to the first 50 patrons through the door. (Find a link for tickets on the event Facebook page.) Social distancing and masking are required, per CDC guidelines and city mandates.
Because pretty much all of the art shows were canceled this year due to the pandemic, the Downtown Springfield Association opened Gailey’s Holiday Pop-Up Shop at 210 E. Walnut St.
The shop opened Oct. 1 and will run through Dec. 31.
“We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on that,” Worley said. “It’s a really good collection of artists. That is something folks can do this whole season: Go and check that out. Support local artists.”
Kendle Durden with DKurdenArt is among the artists who is participating in the pop-up shop. The potter said she greatly appreciates the opportunity to sell her art during what’s been a rough year for artists.
“Every show has canceled. Quite literally, every single one. Not just in Springfield, but everywhere,” Durden said. “I finally got my website going and have been doing some online sales. But this shop right here, the Gailey’s Holiday Pop-Up Shop, has been one of the best things so far.”
Durden described the collection of art available in the shop as “kind of all over the place.”
“We have a good selection of jewelry from a few different artists. We have ceramics from a few different artists, paintings, prints,” Durden said, “a bunch of embroidery and macramé. (We’ve) got a bunch of watercolors, greeting cards, wood carvings, stained glass, purses — all across the spectrum.”
Durden said customers have been great about wearing masks and keeping a safe distance inside the store. The shop’s Small Business Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“This is an unprecedented time. And it’s a time where if you can help out your neighbors, please do,” she added. “Now is definitely a time to support local artists as much as you can. Don’t buy that thing from a big box retailer. Actually go out and purchase something from someone who’s going to reinvest that money into the community.”
Briana Thomas is co-owner of Five Pound Apparel in downtown Springfield. Thomas said her small business survived the shutdown in the spring by “learning and growing and adapting to kind of this new normal.”
They put all their inventory on the website and added curbside pickup and free local delivery for orders over $10 and within city limits.
And don’t forget about locally owned restaurants, Thomas said.
“For me, it’s really just like shopping local is important anyway,” Thomas said. “But this year it’s so much more important because if, for some reason, there is a second shutdown at some point, it is going to be detrimental to these businesses if we are not out there supporting them.”
“(It’s) not only supporting the businesses, but also supporting the city with your sales tax. There’s a lot the city does with our sales tax,” she added. “The city needs it. The local community needs it, local families. It’s just so important.”
It’s not just the locally owned businesses in downtown Springfield that are counting on holiday shoppers this year.
Kaleidoscope is a tattoo, piercing and smoke shop that has been in business for 48 years. It’s located at 1430 E. Sunshine St.
Kaleidoscope manager Whitney Creehan has been urging customers to get their holiday shopping done early because some products are taking longer than usual to stock due to the pandemic.
“My advice would be: If you like and you want it, get it because there is no telling if we will get it back in,” Creehan said. “The closer we get to Christmas, I have a feeling there’s going to be less and less stuff available.”
Unlike many small businesses, Creehan said her dad’s shop has fared pretty well during the pandemic.
‘We carry a lot of stuff that you don’t need, but that you want,” she said. “People have money that they can’t spend in other avenues like travel or going out to eat, so people are treating themselves.”
“I know for the restaurant and bar industry, it’s totally different,” Creehan said.
In Springfield, face coverings are required in areas open to the public and in most places of public accommodation. Public accommodation means a business or other facility, both public and private, both indoor and outdoors, open to and use by the public.
Retailers are required to adhere as much as possible to the social distancing and cleaning guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including, but not limited to when customers are standing in line (should be six feet apart) or when individuals, including employees, are using shared indoor or outdoor spaces.
According to the city’s website, if a business cannot comply with CDC recommended social distancing, then the business must carry out to the greatest degree possible social distancing of at least three feet and require persons in areas open to the public to wear a mask or other facial cover at all times.
“Our retailers have been really conscious of this ever since the stay-at-home orders were lifted back in the early summer,” Worley said. “They are making sure to limit their capacity, to ask folks to wear masks when they are in the store. They have hand sanitizer and other sanitation products available.”
Creehan at Kaleidoscope said customers — for the most part — have no issues with wearing a mask inside the store. If someone has a medical issue or is uncomfortable being inside the store, associates are more than happy to bring products out to your car or the sidewalk.
But Creehan is firm in following the city’s face-covering mandate, not just for the safety of customers but for staff, too.
“Everybody has to be in a mask,” she said. “So much of what we do is very, very close, in-person, face-to-face stuff. We are a retail store where most of the stuff is behind counters.”
“Anything involving body jewelry, everything is very small and it takes a lot of time to pick what you want,” Creehan continued. “We are leaning into the customer all day long, hundreds of people. For us, we want to help the customer, but we don’t want to expose our employees or our customers.”
Worry about the virus can sometimes lead to a small business being a little short-staffed, Creehan said. If a Kaleidoscope associate has even the slightest symptom, they are sent home. For that reason, she asks shoppers to be patient this holiday season no matter where they are shopping.
“Things might be taking a little longer. You might go in and there’s a whole crowd of people, but there’s only one or two people there to help you,” Creehan said. “There’s going to be some staffing issues.”
“Be very kind to the people that are helping you. We all have our own level of stress on so many different levels,” Creehan said. “Christmas is supposed to ultimately be about giving and joy. And it’s going to be a very, very stressful holiday for people because of so many reasons.
“A lot of people are experiencing loss this year. Just remember what the Christmas spirit is supposed to be about and focus on that.”