Black Friday has typically been a day known for long lines and packed stores.
But in the year of a worldwide pandemic, shoppers are being forced to re-examine their holiday shopping experience.
With the holiday season coming up at the end of one of the most unprecedented years in more than a century, businesses also are yearning for shoppers to spend their dollars in locally.
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Local businesses across Jackson County are preparing for the holiday season while adapting to COVID-19 restrictions including masks and social distancing and trying to come up with new shopping experiences.
Dan Robison, president of the Seymour Chamber of Commerce, said shopping locally is about making a conscious effort to make purchases from local retailers.
“Shopping local creates a multiplying effect on the local economy to make the community stronger,” he said.
He said shopping local this holiday season is especially important not only because of the stress of the economy that COVID-19 has caused, but because it’s an important quarter for sales for retailers.
“It’s critical, especially in the fourth quarter. It’s a springboard into the fiscal year. That’s why the holiday season is very important to small businesses,” Robison said. “If many of these small businesses are pulled underwater again, they may not be able to reach the surface.”
While it’s been a hectic year for Jackson County businesses, Robison said overall both the small businesses in the community and shoppers have done an excellent job in adapting to the COVID climate.
“I’m proud of Jackson County and hope that everyone steps back up this holiday season. We need a repeat,” he said.
Robison said many retailers across the county have an established online presence for shoppers not looking to visit a physical storefront. For people looking for gift ideas without shopping in-person, he also said gift cards and gift certificates go a long way for local businesses.
He also noted a few events coming up to promote shopping locally.
Today is Shop Small Saturday, a day in which local businesses are offering special deals to kick off the shopping season in the community.
The chamber also holding their Holiday Passport program again this year. Customers can pick up a “passport” from participating businesses in Seymour and shop from stores on the passport for the chance to win prizes.
To see what businesses are participating in the program, visit the chamber Facebook page.
Multiple community leaders came together to create the “Shop Local” campaign, which is designed to promote the local economy and focus on the Jackson County communities and businesses that have struggled this year due to the pandemic.
Shop Local apparel and merchandise is sold at the Jackson County Visitor Center with 100% of the profits going to the Jackson County United Way.
Todd Darlage, owner of Ewing Unique Boutique in Brownstown, said shopping locally is important for the growth of businesses and the customer experience.
“To my store, it’s a word of mouth type thing. It just grows the business and helps everybody,” Darlage said. “We can carry more variety. People come in and tell you what they like and are interested in. It keeps things fresh.”
He said it’s important for business owners to adapt to an evolving consumer environment.
“You have to stay creative at all times trying to keep everything up to date because we did a lot of business where we would go into people’s homes and decorate trees. You can’t do that now,” Darlage said. “(Running a local business) is just trying to come up with different ideas to stay fresh at all times and get the word out to people that we’re here.”
Craig Klosterman, a floral designer for Jubilee Flowers and Gifts in Seymour, said while this year hasn’t been ideal for businesses, consumers are learning more about where they live given the circumstances.
“We have been very fortunate with everything going on and with people wanting to shop more locally. I think in some regard it opened people’s eyes as to what they have in their community,” Klosterman said. “It’s been awesome to see the community come together like it has.”
Jill Christopher and Monica Stuckwisch are co-owners of the Dragonfly, which carries women’s clothing and accessories.
Christopher said she believes shopping local is very important because it supports the community.
“The local stores are the heart of our community,” she said. “We need to support all of them in order to make our community strong.”
This weekend, Dragonfly and The Flower Care Florist and Gifts will be sharing a space at an old hardware building for shoppers.
“This weekend we will be down at the old Union Hardware building, 116 S. Chestnut St.,” Christopher said. “That way we have a lot more area to spread out for social distancing.”
For those who prefer shopping online, Dragonfly has a Facebook group that people can join and then they can shop through that group. They also offer shipping items and curbside pickup.
CPR Cell Phone Repair in Seymour helps customers in diagnosing and fixing issues with cell phones. Caleb Monroe, a tech for the store, said it can be beneficial financially for consumers to shop locally.
“We can definitely save you from high prices of getting a new phone, we can save you from any kind of upgrade fees that carriers offer. Shopping local can not only help us but help you with prices in the long run,” said Monroe.
Mark Hopkins, owner of Bite the Bullet, said that he’s grateful for people shopping locally so that he can continue to keep his doors open.
“We focus on the local demand and make arming law-abiding citizens of the area our top priority. Shopping local is what allows us to continue our mission,” he said.